Friday, December 17, 2010

Power4Georgians Statement on December 16, 2010 Administrative Law Judge’s Ruling

(BUSINESS WIRE)--We are very disappointed by this decision. As the ALJ acknowledged throughout her decision, Plant Washington’s permit contains a collection of the lowest emission limits of any coal-fired power plant in the country. These limits were the product of rigorous analyses by EPD. In the end, the ALJ elected to elevate form over substance, in that she focused on the words that the EPD witnesses used to explain their analyses, rather than the low emission limits that their analyses produced.

We are surprised by her decision.

Power4Georgians believes that, in reaching her decision on two of the MACT claims, the ALJ ignored the fact that Plant Washington’s MACT surrogate emission limitations for PM-filterable and carbon monoxide (CO) was recently cited by another court in Texas, and even the Sierra Club, as the lowest emission limitations that have been permitted for new coal-fired power plants.

The ALJ ruled in P4G’s and EPD’s favor on the majority of Petitioners’ claims. Of the five (5) claims left in the case, the ALJ rejected three (3) of these claims. Specifically, the ALJ rejected Petitioners’ claims regarding (a) the BACT emission limitation for sulfuric acid mist; (b) the use of CO as a surrogate for the control of dioxins and furans; and (c) P4G’s air dispersion modeling of PM10. The ALJ concluded, however, that the MACT emission limitations for PM-filterable and carbon monoxide (CO) are “not reflective of MACT.” The ALJ did not agree that Petitioners’ proposed alternative PM-filterable and CO emission limitations were “reflective of MACT;” rather, she concluded that EPD and P4G failed to support the Permit’s PM-filterable and CO emission limitations with sufficient data and analysis.

It is important to note that P4G’s intention to move forward with plans to develop and construct Plant Washington is unchanged. The ruling is 69 pages long and it was received this afternoon. We view this as a temporary setback and we are reviewing the decision carefully to determine the best path forward for this project. Coal continues to be an important and essential part of a reliable, low-cost energy portfolio for the future as evidenced by progress made recently on other plants across the nation.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Atlanta Gas Light's Residential Rates to Increase 90 Cents per Month

/PRNewswire/-- Following a 4-1 vote October 27 by the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), residential customers of Atlanta Gas Light will receive a 90-cent monthly net increase in service rates effective November 1. The adjustment, the first base rate increase for the company since 1993, equates to an overall increase of one percent for the typical residential customer's annual natural gas bill. The adjustment will be reflected in the monthly Atlanta Gas Light charges as billed by certificated gas marketers to customers.

After weighing evidence and hearing testimony during the last six months, the PSC concluded that a $26.7 million increase in the company's revenue requirement was warranted to provide the company with sufficient revenue to meet reasonable expenses, pay interest on debt, continue to attract capital at favorable rates and provide a reasonable return to shareholders in order to continue to attract investment. The company originally sought $54.2 million in additional revenues in its case filed May 3, 2010, before adjusting the amount in October to $48.2 million to reflect more current economic conditions.

The company expects a final written order to be issued within the next 30 days, at which time parties to the case have 10 days to file for reconsideration of the decision with the PSC.

"Although we made a strong case for a larger revenue requirement to fund our service obligations, we recognize the economic climate weighed heavily on the commission as it worked to find the right balance for the company, our customers and shareholders," said Suzanne Sitherwood, president, Atlanta Gas Light.

"It is never an easy decision to increase rates, particularly in a difficult economy," Sitherwood said. "However, the action by the PSC provides necessary revenues to sustain our operations and meet the growing demands for compliance and safety work, while improving our customer service levels."

The PSC also approved a rate-design change that closes the cost-of-service gap between residential and commercial customers. Small commercial customers with a Designated Design Day Capacity (DDDC) factor of less than 7.0, which includes approximately 82% of all commercial customers, will see no rate increase or a small decrease. Large commercial customers will receive a monthly increase in their total bill similar in percentage to that of residential customers. In addition, monthly rates charged to agricultural customers will be reduced by $73 on average, particularly to bring poultry growers' rates more in line with general commercial accounts and help them better manage peak costs during winter.

The company also was ordered to investigate whether additional senior citizens might be eligible to participate in Atlanta Gas Light's senior discount program. Individuals age 65 or older with annual income of $14,355 or less are eligible to receive a monthly discount of up to $14.00.

Other details and provisions of the decision include:

* Acceptance of a revenue requirement of approximately $450 million, which equates to an unadjusted increase of approximately $1.46 per residential customer.

* Two changes in the company's surcharges totaling approximately $12.1 million annually, which will offset the impact of the rate increase by approximately 56 cents per month on the customer's monthly bill. This includes a temporary shift of $6.5 million from the Universal Service Fund to fund the Senior Citizen Discount Program, and acceptance of an October filing by Atlanta Gas Light to reduce the environmental cost recovery surcharge rate for an annual reduction of $5.6 million.

* Established an authorized return on equity of 10.75 percent, which is within the estimated range of 10.5 percent to 11.25 percent recommended by the company.

* Approval of a capital structure for the company of 51 percent common equity, 44.63 percent long-term debt and 4.37 percent short-term debt.

* A return to a traditional method of calculating depreciation expense using net value methodology with a salvage rate of negative 30 percent.

* Approval of an in-home appliance repair program that permits Atlanta Gas Light service technicians to perform minor repairs of low cost and short duration when responding to the home for other purposes, while providing referrals to Natural Gas Advantage Dealer companies for more substantial repairs or appliance replacements.

* Funding of the new Customer Care Center in Riverdale, Georgia, to better handle customer issues and support 74 new jobs in Georgia.

* Increase the number of service technicians on staff to make them available to reduce the average time to establish service and fulfill other customer orders from five business days to three.

* Adoption of a new acquisition synergy sharing policy that is expected to hold down future operating expenses by incentivizing the company to make prudent utility acquisitions that capture savings for customers while insulating them from risk of increased costs from such transactions. Customers will share equally in any savings from future transactions after the company demonstrates savings through a future proceeding.

* Allocation of $4.4 million in annual revenue to the company to recognize equitable treatment of current and ongoing savings produced from the acquisition by AGL Resources of NUI Corporation. Evidence in the case demonstrated that since 2005 approximately $150 million in savings were generated from previous acquisitions which were applied to reduce Atlanta Gas Light's operating expenses.

* Improvements to technology systems intended to provide quicker response times and greater capacity to perform additional marketer and customer services.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

J.D. Power and Associates Reports: Future Global Market Demand for Hybrid and Battery Electric Vehicles May Be Over-Hyped; Wild Card is China

/PRNewswire/ -- Combined global sales of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are expected to total 5.2 million units in 2020, or just 7.3 percent of the 70.9 million passenger vehicles forecasted to be sold worldwide by that year, according to a report issued by J.D. Power and Associates. For comparison, global HEV and BEV sales in 2010 are forecasted to total 954,500 vehicles, or 2.2 percent of the 44.7 million vehicles projected to be sold through the end of 2010.

The report, titled "Drive Green 2020: More Hope than Reality" considers various factors affecting the future potential for "green" vehicles in the world's largest automotive markets. These factors include market trends, regulatory environment, consumer sentiment and technology development in these markets.

According to the report, it will be difficult to convince large numbers of consumers to switch from conventionally powered passenger vehicles to HEVs and BEVs. A consumer migration to alternative powertrain technologies will most likely require either one of the following scenarios, or some combination of these scenarios:

* A significant increase in the global price of petroleum-based fuels by 2020
* A substantial breakthrough in green technologies that would reduce costs and improve consumer confidence
* A coordinated government policy to encourage consumers to purchase these vehicles.

Based on currently available information, none of these scenarios are believed to be likely during the next 10 years.

"While considerable interest exists among governments, media and environmentalists in promoting HEVs and BEVs, consumers will ultimately decide whether these vehicles are commercially successful or not," said John Humphrey, senior vice president of automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates. "Based on our research of consumer attitudes toward these technologies—and barring significant changes to public policy, including tax incentives and higher fuel economy standards—we don't anticipate a mass migration to green vehicles in the coming decade."

Consumer Sentiment about HEVs and BEVs

Consumers have a variety of concerns about HEVs and BEVs, including:

* Dislike of their look/design
* Worries about the reliability of new technologies
* Dissatisfaction with overall power and performance
* Anxiety about driving range
* Concern about the time needed to recharge battery packs

More importantly, however, are the personal financial implications of deciding to purchase an alternative-energy vehicle. While many consumers around the world say they are interested in HEVs and BEVs for the expected fuel savings and positive environmental impact they provide, their interest declines significantly when they learn of the price premium that comes with purchasing these vehicles.

"Many consumers say they are concerned about the environment, but when they find out how much a green vehicle is going to cost, their altruistic inclination declines considerably," said Humphrey. "For example, among consumers in the U.S. who initially say they are interested in buying a hybrid vehicle, the number declines by some 50 percent when they learn of the extra $5,000, on average, it would cost to acquire the vehicle."

The overall cost of ownership of HEVs and BEVs over the life of the vehicle is also not entirely clear to consumers, and there is still much confusion about how long one would have to own such a vehicle to realize cost savings on fuel, compared with a vehicle powered by a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE). The resale value of HEVs and BEVs, as well as the cost of replacing depleted battery packs, are other financial considerations that weigh heavily on consumers' minds.

Finally, it is clear from research in the world's largest automotive markets that buyers of hybrid and electric vehicles occupy a unique demographic niche. Buyers of HEVs and BEVs are generally older, more highly educated (possessing a postgraduate degree), high-income individuals who have a deep interest in technology, or who like to be among the early adopters of any new technology product. As a result, it is not clear that HEVs and BEVs will appeal to the general population.

Government Regulations

While the governments of the world's largest automotive-producing nations have schedules in place for improving fuel economy and reducing exhaust emissions, there is little consensus about the timing or manner in which these objectives are to be achieved. Some governments are promoting HEVs, others are focusing on BEVs, and still others are considering additional options.

According to Humphrey, the lack of consistency in regulations across markets is causing global automakers to hedge their options by seeking alliances and technology-sharing agreements. The heavy fixed costs associated with developing multiple powertrain options simultaneously are prohibitively expensive. When combined with the projected lower sales volumes of these products, collaboration between auto companies is almost a necessity to control costs and remain competitive.

One unpredictable aspect of the 2020 outlook is how markets would be affected if more stringent and consistent legislation is adopted that supports specific technologies. In particular, China has the ability to move quickly, invest heavily in the development of one specific propulsion technology, and mandate fuel economy or emissions standards that could favor a particular technology or require a minimum sales penetration level for vehicles with a designated technology. Given the size and growth rate of the Chinese auto market, such a coordinated regulatory environment might allow Chinese companies to achieve economies of scale and drive down the cost of alternative-energy vehicles.


While HEVs and BEVs offer an interesting alternative for the future, it must be acknowledged that many of the shortcomings that defined battery-based vehicles 100 years ago are still prevalent today. These include limited driving range, extended recharging times, limited support infrastructure, and the high cost of battery packs.

Moreover, while reducing exhaust emissions was not an important factor in the development of battery-based vehicles 100 years ago, it has been a significant driver behind the development of BEVs today. For many governments, the primary goal of transitioning to alternative powertrains is to reduce exhaust emissions, and it is not clear how much of this can be achieved.

"We don't want to replace tailpipe emissions with the emissions of coal- and oil-fired power plants that produce the electricity used by BEVs," said Humphrey. "We have to look at the carbon footprint of the entire energy supply chain."

Breakdown of Global HEV and BEV Sales by 2020

Of the 5.2 million HEVs and BEVs forecasted to be sold worldwide in 2020, some 3.9 million units are expected to be HEVs, according to the J.D. Power and Associates global forecast numbers for the third-quarter of 2010. The leading markets for HEVs are the United States (1.7 million units), Europe (977,000 units), and Japan (875,000 units). China is expected to sell fewer than 100,000 HEVs in 2020.

Of the 1.3 million BEVs projected to be sold worldwide in 2020, sales in Europe will account for 742,000 units; sales in China will account for 332,000 units; and the United States and Japan should each account for sales of approximately 100,000 BEVs in 2020.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Kroger and Shell Team Up in the Greater Metro Atlanta and Northern Georgia Area to Help Customers Save at the Pump

/PRNewswire/ -- The Kroger Co., the nation's largest traditional supermarket retailer, is excited to team up with Shell, the number 1 selling gasoline brand in the U.S., to give metro Atlanta and Northern Georgia area customers the chance to earn fuel savings at the pump. The exclusive alliance provides Kroger shoppers the opportunity to save on fuels by using their Kroger Plus Card.

Beginning October 25, every time Kroger customers in the area make a purchase with their Kroger Plus Card, they not only save money on their grocery bill but also earn Fuel Points that can be used at the pump. Kroger customers have the opportunity to redeem 100 points per visit to save 10 cents per gallon instantly at Kroger Fuel Centers and now at participating Shell stations. This offer is valid up to 35 gallons of fuel per purchase.

"Adding value and savings is an important part of Kroger's commitment to providing our customers the best possible shopping experience," said Glynn Jenkins, director of communications and public relations for Kroger's Atlanta Division. "In today's economic times, it's more important than ever for companies like Kroger and Shell to join forces to offer our customers optimum savings and rewards."

"We are excited to be teaming up with Kroger to help fill customers' gas tanks for less," said Dan Little, North America fuels marketing manager for Shell Oil Products U.S. "With Kroger stores throughout the metro Atlanta area and Northern Georgia, and conveniently located participating Shell stations nearby, it's never been easier for customers to save on high-quality Shell Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines."

Customers earn one Fuel Point for every dollar spent on most items when they use their Kroger Plus Card during shopping trips at participating Kroger stores. To help shoppers build up their savings quickly, additional Fuel Points can be earned by purchasing prescriptions or gift cards at Kroger. Customers earn 50 Fuel Points for each filled eligible prescription and two Fuel Points for every dollar spent on third-party gift cards from Kroger's in-store Gift Card Malls. Shoppers can visit any Kroger store for more details. Fuel Points will be automatically added to Kroger Plus Card accounts and will be reflected on customers' grocery receipt after every purchase. Customers also have the option of looking online on their "My Kroger" page at to check how many Fuel Points they have earned. Fuel Points must be used during the month they are earned or by the end of the following calendar month.

Customers may redeem their Fuel Points at Kroger Fuel Centers or participating Shell stations by using their Kroger Plus Card at the pump, manually entering their card number or entering their alternate ID, which will initiate the fuel savings. Customers with questions about the fuels rewards program can call Kroger Customer Service at 1-800-576-4377, or they can contact Shell Customer Service at 1-888-GO-SHELL for assistance identifying participating Shell locations.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Prevent vampires from wasting energy in your home

Just like a vampire can steal energy from an unsuspecting victim, an idle home appliance can bleed power from a home and unnecessarily add to its electric bill.

Did you unplug the coffeemaker before you left home this morning? If not, it is still pulling a small amount of electricity. This is called “phantom” or “vampire” energy. Most small appliances do not use a lot of electricity while still plugged in or in standby mode, but there use is being recorded. You will pay for those watts of electricity.

A phone charger, for example, plugged in with no cell phone attached uses phantom energy. Computers, printers, hard drives and monitors all still pull electricity while plugged in and not being used.

The best way to stop this phantom energy waste is to use a power strip or surge protector. By plugging electronics into these, you can turn off the power to the strip or protector and eliminate the flow of electricity.

To reduce the electricity used by a computer, turn it and its monitor off if you’re not going to use it for more than two hours. If you’re not going to use the monitor for more than 20 minutes, turn it off.

There is a surge of electricity when your computer is initially turned on, but overall it’s much less than the electricity used when the computer is in standby mode. Another misconception is that screen savers are energy savers. Many screen savers actually use more energy than if the computer was on without a screen saver in place.

To save energy, purchase Energy Star® computers and other appliances. These appliances and electronics carry the Energy Star logo.

As with all energy-saving tips, apply the ideas that make sense for your household. If you have to reprogram television or cable remotes every time you unplug the television, DVD player or cable box, this may result in too much time or too much of an inconvenience for you.

Working together, families can do simple things like turn off lights when they leave a room or unplug small appliances that are not being used. Replacing light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs can save energy, too. CFL bulbs cost a little more than traditional bulbs, but they last five to seven years.

For more energy-savings tips, contact your local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1, or your local power provider.

By Jackie Dallas

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Save Money and Energy; Take the ENERGY STAR® Pledge

/PRNewswire/ -- Georgia Power is encouraging its customers to help the environment by supporting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) "Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR" campaign. A key portion of the yearlong campaign focuses on lighting, which kicked off on "Change a Light" day, Oct. 6.

The campaign asks consumers to take the pledge to change at least one standard incandescent light bulb to an ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), switch to ENERGY STAR qualified appliances and products, use a programmable thermostat, ensure their home is well-insulated and make other energy-efficient lifestyle changes.

"We want our customers to understand that the smallest things can add up to a real difference. A small step like pledging to change at least one incandescent bulb in a home or business to a CFL can save money, energy and help the environment," said Angela Strickland, Georgia Power's director of Energy Efficiency. "Energy efficiency is a priority for Georgia Power and we see tremendous value in equipping our customers with information on ENERGY STAR programs and products that can benefit them."

Changing a standard light bulb to an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL can save more than $30 over the life of the bulb. ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs use 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer. Choose ENERGY STAR qualified appliances and products for your home and save. ENERGY STAR appliances not only use 10 percent to 50 percent less energy, they also use less water.

Georgia Power will promote the campaign to its customers beginning Oct. 4, in conjunction with Customer Service Appreciation Week, a national event which recognizes the importance of customer service and honors the frontline workforce that serves customers.

Customers are invited to take the pledge online at or look for the pledge card in their October bills.

"Georgia Power has been an ENERGY STAR partner since 2004. We are proud to have been recognized as EPA's national pledge leader for the past two years and ranked in the top-five national pledge leaders since 2006," Strickland said. "We hope to continue our forward momentum during this year's campaign, which concludes April 2011. We encourage all of our customers to take the pledge and change a light!"

In 2009, Georgia Power distributed more than 120,000 CFLs, and since 2006 more than 450,000 CFLs have been given in exchange for a pledge.

If household customers are looking for a place to recycle used CFLs, there's no need to worry. Georgia Power has partnered with The Home Depot to offer recycling for compact fluorescent light bulbs at the retailer's stores in Georgia.

Georgia Power sponsors in-store bins at all 88 The Home Depot locations in the state, which creates the state's most widespread recycling program for CFLs and brings relatively convenient recycling within reach of most households.

Over 23,000 pounds of CFLs have been recycled through Georgia Power's partnership with The Home Depot. For more information about the CFL recycling program, visit

Georgia Power encourages its customers to practice energy efficiency year-round. For additional money-saving energy efficiency tips, visit For additional information about ENERGY STAR, visit

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Georgia Power to Expand Solar Energy Capacity

/PRNewswire/ -- Georgia Power today (October 5) received approval from the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) for a new tariff that will nearly double the amount of solar energy the company purchases to supply its Green Energy Program.

The Solar Purchase Tariff will allow Georgia Power to purchase an additional 1.5 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity from customers at 17 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for generating facilities designed to produce less than 100 kilowatts. Customers who sell solar under the new tariff must agree to share all cost and operational information with Georgia Power so that the company can gain experience in solar electricity generation.

The company will also issue a request for proposals (RFP) for an additional 1 MW of solar capacity with no project size restriction. Georgia Power will consider solar proposals in this RFP with a price of 15 cents per kWh or less.

Georgia Power will use this solar energy to supply the Premium Green Energy product. Customers can purchase 100-kilowatt-hour blocks of Premium Green Energy with a 50 percent solar component for $5 per block or Standard Green Energy, generated from biomass sources, for $3.50 per block.

Since Georgia Power began the Green Energy program in October 2006, nearly 4,200 customers have committed to purchase approximately 3.8 million kilowatt-hours of green energy, or enough electricity to power approximately 3,800 homes using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month.

"Since we began offering customers a 50 percent solar option, we've added almost 1,000 new blocks of the Premium Green Energy product to the program," said Angela Strickland, director of Energy Efficiency. "By increasing our solar capacity in the program to 5.4 MW, we hope to keep pace with the significant growth of solar purchases by our customers both now and in the future."

Georgia Power will continue to offer its Renewable-Non Renewable Resources (RNR) tariff to customers who use their solar facilities to either offset their electricity bill or who sell the power back to Georgia Power at the company's solar avoided cost.

Georgia Power's Solar Purchase Tariff and revised RNR tariff will go into effect Jan. 1, 2011.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Southern Company Captures CO2 at Georgia Power Plant; Research Milestone is a First for Company

/PRNewswire/ -- Southern Company has captured carbon dioxide from one of its power plants for the first time, a milestone that significantly advances the development of technology considered crucial to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power generation.

The research accomplishment was achieved this month at subsidiary Georgia Power's Plant Yates near Newnan, Ga.

The pilot-scale project at Plant Yates, which uses a capture system developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), will provide additional process improvements before the technology is demonstrated next year at a much larger 25-megawatt scale at Plant Barry, which is owned and operated by Southern Company subsidiary Alabama Power near Mobile, Ala.

During the pilot at Plant Yates, a small amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) was captured, using a solvent that absorbs CO2, and then returned to the plant's flue gas. At Plant Barry, the carbon dioxide will be compressed and transported via pipeline to deep underground storage formations.

"Capturing CO2 from an operating power plant is an important step forward in our efforts to develop effective and cost-efficient technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while ensuring a continued reliable and affordable supply of electricity for our customers," said Chris Hobson, Southern Company chief environmental officer. "Along with our other carbon capture and storage research initiatives, our success here will help us move closer to the ultimate goal of commercial deployment."

Southern Company is a participant in several major research initiatives to advance the development of carbon capture and storage technology, a key component in the nation's effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to the projects at Yates and Barry, Southern Company operates the National Carbon Capture Center for the U.S. Department of Energy near Birmingham, Ala., and its subsidiary Mississippi Power is building an advanced commercial-scale coal gasification power plant in Kemper County, Miss., that will include carbon capture and re-use for enhanced oil recovery. Other carbon capture and storage projects are under way or completed at other Southern Company facilities.

The test at Plant Yates will help confirm MHI's emission-control design and provide other findings important to the much larger-scale work next year at the Plant Barry test, which represents one of the industry's largest demonstrations of a start-to-finish power plant carbon capture and storage system.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

HHS releases $101 million in emergency funding to states for energy assistance

Georgia to receive $1,081,787 for energy assistance

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today (September 20) announced the release of $101 million in emergency contingency funding to help eligible low-income homeowners and renters meet their home energy needs. These Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) contingency funds will provide states, territories, tribes and the District of Columbia with additional assistance to pay heating and cooling costs. Funds will be allocated to all states based on their regular (old) block grant allocations.

"During these times of economic uncertainty, far too many Americans face difficulties affording the basics, such as utilities" said HHS Secretary Sebelius. "The release of these funds will help ease those worries, and assure individuals, particularly those with the lowest incomes that pay a high proportion of household income for home energy, that they will not be left behind during the cold winter months ahead."

LIHEAP helps eligible families pay for home heating and cooling costs, as well as helping weatherize eligible families' homes. In recent years, more than eight million low-income households across the country receive assistance under LIHEAP.

As part of this Administration's effort to maximize federal funds, the department has focused on strengthening the program's operations and ensuring integrity at every level. Earlier this year, HHS requested strategic plans from each state to outline their tactics for improving efficiency and integrity in LIHEAP programs. Those plans, having all now been received, are being reviewed to make sure states are using effective program management and improper-payment-prevention strategies to ensure these funds are reaching the families who need them most.

The contingency funds released today are in addition to the $4.5 billion in LIHEAP block grant funding and the $490 million in emergency contingency funds received by states earlier this year. Funds released today are the remaining from FY 2010 LIHEAP contingency fund available for this fiscal year.

In total, Congress appropriated $5.1 billion for LIHEAP in Fiscal Year 2010. "We are releasing these funds at a time when many Americans are struggling to find jobs and make ends meet as our economy begins to recover. These funds will help many families and seniors heat their homes in the coming winter," said David A. Hansell, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families.

Individuals interested in applying for energy assistance should contact their local/state LIHEAP agency. For more information go to or

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Georgia Power Now Offering Free Online Energy Audit

PRNewswire/ -- In less than 10 minutes, Georgia Power customers can take the guesswork out of determining where their electricity dollars go each month.

An online energy-audit tool, or "Home Energy Calculator," was developed by Atlanta-based APOGEE Interactive to provide residential customers a way to determine where the most energy is consumed in their homes - from air conditioners to refrigerators - and what they can do to reduce their energy consumption.

The customized calculator was developed for Georgia, and reflects the state's most common home construction, weather patterns and typical home appliances used by most residents.

"Energy costs are rising for various reasons and our customers are looking to us for help on ways to save money and energy," said Efficiency and Conservation Director Angela Strickland. "Georgia Power's portfolio of programs and tools puts our customers in the driver's seat to transform the way they use electricity in their homes and businesses."

For more information about all of the company's energy-efficiency programs and to access the free online energy audit tool, visit

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UGA researchers win $1.34 million USDA-DOE biofuels grant

Researchers at the University of Georgia have won a $1.34 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to attempt to increase the productivity of trees by genetically modifying certain proteins critical to wood formation. The study could have important implications in using trees as biofuel.

The research will be conducted by Scott Harding and Chung-Jui Tsai, who are both faculty members at UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

They became interested in the possibility that manipulating sucrose transporter proteins—which shuttle food from leaves throughout the rest of the tree—during a separate, unrelated project conducted by Raja Payyavula, a graduate student working for the pair. The student’s research led to the discovery of a connection between sucrose transporter genes and certain stimuli.

Sucrose transporter genes have been known about for a long time because they enable leaves to send the sugars they produce during photosynthesis to other parts of the growing plant that do not carry out photosynthesis. This would include grain or tubers in food crops. In a key, and somewhat surprising finding by Harding and Tsai, sucrose transporter genes were found to be very abundant in developing the wood of young trees. They now want to know how a tree will react—positively or negatively—to further modification of those proteins.

They hope that tweaking the proteins will modify the way trees divide their photosynthate (sucrose and other sugars) between wood-forming and other organs like roots and bark. Wood is the raw feedstock for biofuels, and the research is being funded to learn about the potential of this gene for affecting wood growth, and thus tree growth, under a variety of environmental conditions.

“We know there’s a connection,” said Harding. “We just don’t know much about that connection right now.”

The research team already has begun its experiments with the award from the joint Plant Feedstock Genomics 2010 program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and DOE. This program funds projects that accelerate plant breeding and improve biomass feedstocks to lay the groundwork for a new class of biofuels that are low-cost, high-quality and maximize the amount produced per acre.

More information about the Plant Feedstock Genomics for Bioenergy program can be found at

In announcing the award—which is part of the Obama administration’s efforts to diversify the nation’s energy portfolio and accelerate the development of new energy technologies—leaders of the two funding federal agencies commented on their hopes that such research will help reduce the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil.

“Cost-effective, sustainable biofuels are crucial to building a clean energy economy,” said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “By harnessing the power of science and technology, this joint effort between DOE and USDA will help accelerate research in the critical area of plant feedstocks, spurring the creation of the domestic bio-industry while creating jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

“Developing a domestic source of renewable energy will create jobs and wealth in rural America, combat global warming, replace our dependence on foreign oil and build a stronger foundation for the 21st century economy,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “This scientific investment will lay the foundation for a source of fuel made from renewable sources.”

The $1.34 million grant is part of a larger, $9 million grant package awarded to multiple agencies and universities across the U.S.

Harding, senior research scientist, and Tsai, a professor Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar who also has a joint appointment in the department of genetics, joined the Warnell School in 2008. Their work focuses on forest biotechnology with an emphasis on creating high-energy trees for use in biofuel.

Tsai’s interests also include determining how trees defend themselves by using chemical compounds to ward off bugs and grazing animals. Harding also has led a DOE-research project on carbon sequestration, where carbon dioxide emissions from facilities such as power plants are captured by trees rather than released into the atmosphere.

If they are successful in genetically modifying the sucrose transporter genes to create faster-growing trees, it could have tremendous implications for using trees as biofuels.

“We know the sucrose transporter genes are connected to tree growth, and we also know that there are three different such proteins present in the tree stems,” Harding explained. The team plans to manipulate those proteins to learn about their division of labor and to see how the manipulations affect tree growth, especially the competition between leaves, stems and roots for photosynthate. The project will involve an assistant research scientist, a postdoctoral scientist, two graduate students and several undergraduate students.

This investigation is just beginning, Tsai said, and findings during the course of this three-year project will add immensely to the understanding of how tree biomass is produced.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Range Fuels Produces Cellulosic Methanol From First Commercial Cellulosic Biofuels Plant

/PRNewswire/ -- Range Fuels, Inc., a company focused on commercially producing low-carbon biofuels and clean renewable power, today announced that it has produced cellulosic methanol from the initial phase of its first commercial cellulosic biofuels plant near Soperton, Georgia using non-food biomass.

The first phase of the Soperton Plant operations employs Range Fuels' innovative, two-step thermo-chemical process, which uses heat, pressure, and steam to convert non-food biomass, such as woody biomass and grasses into a synthesis gas composed of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The syngas is then passed over a proprietary catalyst to produce mixed alcohols that are separated and processed to yield a variety of low-carbon biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol and methanol.

The cellulosic methanol produced from Phase 1 will be used to produce biodiesel, ultimately displacing diesel oil in transportation fuel markets. It may also be used to displace diesel in heating applications, used as a fuel additive in gasoline-powered motor vehicles, or used to power fuel cells. Range Fuels plans to begin production of cellulosic ethanol from the plant in the third quarter this year. The cellulosic ethanol will meet ASTM standards for fuel-grade ethanol and will be used to displace gasoline in local and regional transportation fuel markets.

"We are ecstatic to be producing cellulosic methanol from our Soperton Plant, and are on track to begin production of cellulosic ethanol in the third quarter of this year," said David Aldous, Range Fuels' President and CEO. "This milestone is a giant step in overcoming the technological and financing challenges facing the commercialization of cellulosic biofuels and positions us extremely well to expand production of cellulosic biofuels. Additionally, with the first U.S. commercial production of cellulosic biofuels from non-food biomass, Range Fuels has taken a giant step in delivering on its vision of offering solutions to the pressing global challenges of energy independence, the environment, and the economy."

The Soperton Plant will initially use woody biomass from nearby timber operations, but plans to experiment with other types of renewable biomass as feedstock for the conversion process, including herbaceous feedstocks like miscanthus and switchgrass. Range Fuels plans to expand the capacity of the plant to 60 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels annually with construction to begin next summer. The Soperton Plant is permitted to produce 100 million gallons of ethanol and methanol each year.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Announced Wood Bioenergy Projects Overstate Wood Use for Energy in the US; New Products Track Emerging Bioenergy Markets

/PRNewswire/ -- Analysis of public data by Forisk Consulting indicates a 67% success rate for announced wood-using bioenergy projects in the continental US. Projects with the highest probability of success share two requirements. One, they employ currently viable and scalable technology. Two, they demonstrate verifiable progress in planning and executing bioenergy project development. As of July 29, 2010, Forisk screened 363 announced and operating wood-consuming bioenergy projects. These projects represent potential, incremental wood use of 121 million green tons per year by 2020. Based on Forisk's screening methodology, projects representing only 68.4 million green tons per year pass basic viability screening.

"Why is this important? Because assessments of emerging wood bioenergy markets in the US that assume all projects succeed overstate likely wood use for energy by nearly 77%," says Brooks Mendell, President of Forisk. Clearly, tracking and screening bioenergy projects challenge those interested in renewable energy investments, economic development, and timberland markets. Wood Bioenergy US and Wood Bioenergy shapefiles for GIS mapping applications, two new subscription products from Forisk, solve this challenge.

"In Wood Bioenergy US, we continuously confirm, in a systematic way, that each project is moving forward and getting closer to being operational," says Amanda Lang, Managing Editor. The current issue indicates that bioenergy projects in the South comprise the largest volume of potential wood use of the three US regions, but the lowest pass rate through Forisk's screening. Southern projects representing 24 million tons - a 40% pass rate based on volume - appear viable based on current analysis. Alternately, the US North - which includes Appalachia, the Lake States and the Northeast - has the largest number, with 153 projects announced.

Wood Bioenergy US is published ten times per year. For more information, visit and click on "Bioenergy." A monthly, complimentary Wood Bioenergy US summary is available by signing up for the Forisk News at

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lawsuit: Department of Energy Hiding Risk of $8.33 Billion Taxpayer-Backed Loan Guarantee for Proposed Georgia Nuclear Reactors

/PRNewswire-/ -- U.S. taxpayers are being denied timely access to information that could be used to assess the risk to their pocketbooks posed by the controversial $8.33 billion federal loan guarantee for two proposed nuclear reactors at Southern Company's Plant Vogtle in Georgia, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). Despite the fact that the President announced the Vogtle taxpayer-financed loan guarantee on February 16, 2010 amid much fanfare, all meaningful details of the deal have remained shrouded in secrecy.

In announcing its lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), SACE was joined today by Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS). Although not a party to the lawsuit, TCS shares similar concerns about the secrecy in the DOE loan guarantee program.

SACE filed the lawsuit because of DOE's failure to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed on March 25, 2010. Under FOIA, DOE was obliged to respond to the SACE request by April 22 - well in advance of when DOE and Southern finalized the loan guarantee deal on June 11, 2010. However, DOE released no documents to SACE until July 6, 2010. When DOE finally released a handful of documents relating to the Vogtle loan guarantees, they were heavily redacted, with all important details blacked out, including one that was censored 244 times with half a dozen pages nearly or entirely obscured. (To see one of the DOE-censored documents, go to on the Web.)

The clear foot dragging and improper handling by DOE of the SACE FOIA request provide the latest proof of the validity of the criticisms set out in the July 12, 2010 U.S. Government Accountability Office report, "Further Actions Are Needed to Improve DOE's Ability to Evaluate and Implement the Loan Guarantee Program." (See The GAO found that the program is inadequately planned and executed, lacks objective performance goals, and provides preferential treatment to nuclear loan guarantee applications over other types of applications.

Stephen Smith, executive director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said: "This is too large a sum of taxpayer's money, being spent on too risky a project for there to be this much cover-up and secrecy. This is the first award of what could be tens of billions of dollars more in new federal subsidies for the nuclear industry - setting the precedent of hiding the financial ball from the public in round one is a bad start. We need openness and transparency. Obama's Department of Energy, Southern Company and the public power companies which are part of this cover-up need to set the record straight and tell the truth about what is going on here; that they are socializing the risk and privatizing the profits for big power companies."

Ryan Alexander, president, Taxpayers for Common Sense, said: "DOE is hiding critical information behind their back with the one hand while they have their other hand out asking for billions more in loan guarantees. They already have the authority to give out more than $18 billion for nuclear reactors and still have yet to provide any assurances that these projects are smart investments. In fact, all the evidence points to taxpayers losing big on reactors like the Vogtle project. This is unacceptable and DOE must come clean and start fully answering these information requests or lawmakers should stop the program."

Larry Sanders, acting director of the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University School of Law, and an attorney for SACE, said: "In the Freedom of Information Act, Congress provided citizens a right to timely access to federal agency records. In this case, Southern Company and its partners have been awarded loan guarantees that could end up costing the federal treasury billions of dollars. Yet, in violation of the law, DOE refuses to allow public scrutiny of this subsidy to the nuclear energy industry. With billions of taxpayer dollars on the line, SACE had no choice but to file this lawsuit to force DOE to disgorge records related to the Plant Vogtle loan guarantees."

The March 25, 2010 SACE FOIA request covered such items as: the Southern Company loan guarantee; related correspondence between DOE and Southern Nuclear Operating Company, Georgia Power Company, Oglethorpe Power Corporation, Municipal Authority of Georgia, and the City of Dalton, Georgia; environmental review records related to the loan guarantee request; any credit analysis conducted by DOE in relation to the loan guarantee; all records related to the general terms and conditions of the loan guarantee; and all records related to issuance of the loan guarantee.

Of the seven areas addressed in the SACE FOIA request, DOE has failed entirely to respond to five items. DOE's partial response to two items in the request yielded only five responsive documents, months after the FOIA deadline. Most documents responsive to SACE's request remain hidden from public view. Even where the tardy responses were provided, the documents were so highly redacted as to make them largely or entirely meaningless.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gulf Area Energy Workers to Policymakers: My Job Matters

/PRNewswir/ -- Fifty independent energy industry representatives joined U.S. Senator John Cornyn (TX) and former Congressman John Peterson at a Capitol Hill press conference to urge the Obama Administration and Members of Congress to lift the moratorium on energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and resist efforts to raise taxes on U.S. energy companies. The event, which took place this morning, was organized by Save U.S. Energy Jobs, a project of the American Energy Alliance.

"My job matters," Thomas Clements a small business owner from Broussard, Louisiana, said. "So I've come to Washington to find somebody to hear me, to see my hopelessness, my no-man's-land that I'm in because of these proposed tax changes to the energy industry and the moratorium. I hope that Congress listens to us and protects American jobs."

Thomas and his wife, Melissa, are co-owners of Oilfield CNC Machining. They opened their business at the end of 2008 with a focus on producing quality metal parts for oilfield equipment used on offshore drilling rigs. With a year under their belts, the Clements were hoping that 2010 would be a breakout year for their new company. They were looking to hire more workers and expand their facility workspace. Although the oil spill in April 2010 and the initial 30-day moratorium put a damper on things, they weren't going to let that keep them down. But when the six month moratorium was issued their business came to a complete halt. Every order was cancelled. Now they are worried that taxes on American energy companies could harm the entire U.S. energy industry.

The Clements are just one tragic story.

Today more than fifty Gulf area residents came to Washington to share their perspectives. They're here to tell their representatives, "My Job Matters" and to ask their elected officials to lift the moratorium on energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and to not support changes to the tax code that would unfairly harm American energy companies.

According to a recent study released by Louisiana State University professor Dr. Joseph Mason, the six month moratorium will cost the Gulf region more than 8,000 jobs and more than $2.1 billion in economic activity. And if the moratorium is extended - the consequences could be much, much worse.

In addition to the current moratorium, President Obama and Members of Congress have not ruled out extending the moratorium and have also suggested repealing two provisions of the tax code that would raise taxes on U.S. based energy companies. One of these taxes would amount to a double taxation on American energy companies, hurting U.S. companies and acting as a de-facto bailout to foreign owned ones. Policymakers are also considering raising the cap on liabilities for energy companies - making their work unsustainable. Any of these new laws would do irreparable harm to American energy companies, raise the price of energy for consumers, weaken our nation's energy security, and kill U.S. jobs.

"In an economy like this, the President and Congress should be looking for ways to strengthen U.S. businesses, not weaken them," Thomas J. Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, said. "I'm proud that these hardworking small business owners are fighting for American energy jobs."

Following the press conference, the Gulf Coast residents fanned out across Capitol Hill to meet with their representatives in Congress and staffs.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Nationwide Low-Carbon Fuel Standard Would Increase Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Study Finds

/PRNewswire/ -- The implementation of a nationwide low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) in the United States would increase global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 19 million metric tons each year - contradicting the claim of LCFS advocates that the standard would reduce such emissions - according to a study issued today.

The study assumes that because an LCFS would prevent American refineries from importing petroleum obtained from oil sands in neighboring Western Canada, the United States would instead have to import more oil in tankers from the Middle East and elsewhere. At the same time, the Canadian oil would be shipped in tankers across the Pacific to China and other Asian locations.

The study calls this long-distance movement of oil thousands of miles around the world in tankers a "shuffle" that would result in higher carbon dioxide emissions than simply extracting the Canadian petroleum from the oil sands for U.S. consumption, due to emissions created by shipping the oil such great distances.

Barr Engineering Company of Minneapolis conducted the study for members of NPRA, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association.

"In conducting this technical study, we looked at the most accurate data publicly available, and the conclusion was clear," said Joel Trinkle, senior air quality consultant at Barr and one of the authors of the study. "Crude shuffling under a nationwide LCFS would substantially raise overall greenhouse gas emissions."

The study found that:

-- "A LCFS implemented in the U.S. results in a notable increase in
greenhouse gas emissions due to the displacement of Canadian crude
imports to the U.S. and re-routing of crude imports and exports to
accommodate this displacement. ... Nearby Canadian crude sources
would be diverted to regions not affected by LCFS and replaced with
supplies from distant parts of the world." (Page 2)
-- "While it is likely that LCFS would change the mix of crude imports to
the United States, LCFS implemented in the United States is not
expected to change overall trends in energy use and demand for crude
resources throughout the rest of the world. A shift in U.S.
crude-supply preferences will simply cause redirection of crude
supplies elsewhere." (Page 4-5)
-- "This analysis of the change in crude-transport-related emissions
accompanying implementation of a LCFS indicates that the net effect
will be a doubling of GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions associated with
changes in crude-transport patterns. It indicates an increase in
global GHG emissions by 7.1 to 19.0 million metric tons per year,
depending on the extent of resulting Canadian crude displacement."
(Page 3)

Canada is currently the largest supplier of petroleum imported into the United States, but other nations are looking to the Canadian oil sands as a potential energy source. China alone has already invested more than $6 billion in Canadian oil sands projects as it continues to rapidly increase its presence in overseas energy production.

"By denying the American people access to oil from our friendly neighbor Canada, a low-carbon fuel standard would raise fuel costs and wipe out millions of American jobs," said NPRA President Charles T. Drevna. "Now this latest study shows that a nationwide LCFS won't reduce overall global greenhouse gas emissions - it will actually raise them. These findings simply reinforce NPRA's long-held belief that a federal low-carbon fuel standard is a policy of all pain and no gain."

Additional concerns regarding American access to Canadian oil sands resources have surfaced following a recent U.S. State Department decision regarding a proposed pipeline to transport Canadian crude to refineries in the Gulf Coast region. The decision will allow federal agencies an additional 90 days to comment on TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL project, pending the State Department's release of a final environmental impact statement. The proposed pipeline expansion would more than double the amount of Canadian crude imported to the United States.

Several regional and state LCFS initiatives are currently underway, including a statewide LCFS program in California established as part of the state's AB 32 climate law, and proponents of a federal LCFS continue to seek its enactment.

A federal LCFS provision was included in the 2008 Lieberman-Warner climate change bill that was defeated in the Senate. The 2009 Waxman-Markey climate change bill also contained an LCFS provision, although it was removed before the bill was passed by the House.

Two other recent studies cast additional doubt on the efficacy of low-carbon fuel standards:

-- A June 2010 report by Charles River Associates found that a nationwide
LCFS implemented in 2015 would result by 2025 in: the loss of between
2.3 million and 4.5 million American jobs; an increase of up to 170
percent in the price of gasoline and diesel fuel; and a 2 to 3 percent
decrease in the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (totaling between $410
billion and $750 billion).
-- A report by the Canadian Energy Research Institute issued in October
2009 examined the impacts of developing Canadian oil sands on the U.S.
economy. It found that such development - which would be threatened by
the implementation of a nationwide LCFS in the United States - would
result in an estimated 343,000 new U.S. jobs between 2011 and 2015,
and that U.S. output of goods and services would increase by an
average of $62 billion per year from 2009 through 2025.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

New Poll: Americans Support Energy Production, Oppose Unfair Taxes by a 3-1 Margin

/PRNewswire/ -- A new survey released today by the American Energy Alliance (AEA) found that 77 percent of registered voters oppose efforts in Congress to tax American companies twice on income earned abroad. The poll also found that 3 out of 4 Americans agree that our energy companies should be allowed to continue offshore exploration for energy and, separately, that we should increase U.S. oil production.

"These results may not be what the leaders on Capitol Hill want to hear, but it is no surprise that even with the tragic events unfolding in the Gulf, Americans recognize the realities of our nation's economy, the abundance of energy still available here in the U.S., and the overall exemplary safety record of our nation's drillers," AEA president Thomas Pyle said.

"AEA recently commissioned a study that showed 12,000 jobs would be lost and $2.8 billion in economic activity with it, because of the Administration's six-month moratorium in the Gulf. This unpopular and unnecessary ban is costing more jobs every day and will cost every American in terms of higher energy prices and increased reliance on energy from unstable foreign regimes. Again, we urge the Administration to listen to the American people and reopen the Gulf to responsible energy development."

The survey, conducted by Jan R van Lohuizen from Voter/Consumer Outreach, comes at a time when the President and Congress are attempting to pay for environmental and other pet projects on the backs of American oil and gas companies. Two specific changes to the tax code included in the President's 2011 budget and under discussion on Capitol Hill would have the impact of increasing the cost of energy in the U.S. and could lead to even more job losses in the energy sector. The U.S. currently taxes the global income of its international companies, but provides a credit against domestic tax liability on that income in hopes of keeping American companies from being "double-taxed" on their overseas earnings. Targeting our own energy producers with this double-tax will weaken American energy companies' ability to compete with foreign energy companies.

Additionally, policymakers are looking to repeal Section 199 tax provisions which gives all businesses that manufacture goods within the U.S. an incentive to grow their U.S. operations and hire more U.S. workers. Some in Washington are attempting to repeal these provisions just on the oil industry, essentially discriminating against energy jobs. Today, the energy industry employs some 9 million workers. However, many of these jobs could be in jeopardy if the Administration and Congress continue the drilling moratorium and impose new and onerous taxes on these companies.

The survey also found that Americans overwhelmingly oppose new regulations on the energy industry and, instead, support efforts to better enforce existing laws (16%-75%).

The poll was commissioned by Save U.S. Energy Jobs, a project of the American Energy Alliance - a free market energy advocacy organization. To learn more and get exclusive information on upcoming projects, follow Save U.S. Energy Jobs on Twitter and Facebook.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Report Shows Significant Potential for Renewable Energy in South

The South could generate 20-30 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources within the next 20 years – up from less than 4 percent today -- if strong federal policies are enacted, according to a report released July 27 by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University. The analysis, “Renewable Energy in the South,” finds that conventional wisdom has underestimated the available renewable resources in the region and that a federal renewable electricity standard (RES) would enable the South to capitalize on this untapped renewable energy potential.

Read the Full Report Here:

The South lags behind all other regions in renewable electricity, obtaining 3.7 percent of its power from renewable sources, compared to 9.5 percent for the country as a whole. Only four states (Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, and Texas) have a state-level renewable portfolio standard, while three others have voluntary renewable energy goals.  The fate of renewables in the South is not only important for the region, but for the nation as a whole since, in 2008, the region accounted for 44 percent of the country’s energy consumption.

Opponents of renewable energy production claim that the South lacks the renewable energy resources to capitalize on the growing demand for clean energy.  However, the report finds that there are abundant renewable energy resources available that can be tapped if supportive policies are put in place. The report shows that if a 25 percent (by 2025) federal RES is enacted, the amount of electricity supplied by power companies from renewable sources could increase more than 250 percent above the level expected in 2030 if no new federal renewables policies were enacted.

A number of other studies have shown a large potential for renewable energy in the South,” said Etan Gumerman of Duke University’s Nicholas Institute and co-lead researcher of the study.  “Our study shows that significant increases can actually be achieved, particularly through supportive local or federal policies.”

The report, using a customized version of the economic modeling system used by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, finds that a federal renewable electricity standard and carbon pricing system would increase the proportion of electricity derived from renewable sources by power companies in every state, particularly in wind and biomass. By 2030, the report shows, federal carbon pricing policy would increase renewable electricity production in the South by 390 percent.

“Countries around the world are already tapping into the potential of renewable energy, and are capturing export markets and generating jobs in the process,” said Dr. Marilyn Brown of the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-lead researcher of the study.  “The report demonstrates that although many states in the South are off to a slow start, renewable initiatives are now underway across the region, and the potential for expansion is promising.” 

In addition, the report finds that electricity produced by end-users, such as households and businesses using small-scale solar electric and heating facilities, would also benefit from federal policies and could supply a substantial portion of the region’s renewable electricity.  Under a 25 percent RES, for example, renewable electricity supplied by utilities and end-users could increase by 154 percent. Carbon pricing policy could lead to a 266 percent increase above the total level of renewable electricity expected in the absence of federal policy changes.

“In the future, households and businesses have the potential to become major suppliers of clean, renewable electricity,” added Dr. Brown.  “This changes the way we need to think about the South’s renewable energy potential.”


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Friday, July 23, 2010

Coalition of Consumers Urges Senate Not to Legislate Natural Gas Demand in Energy/Climate Bill

/PRNewswire/ -- A coalition of major manufacturers, agricultural organizations and other industrial energy consumers today cautioned the Senate to avoid legislating new natural gas demand in any energy or climate change bill, saying such an approach would be "misguided" given existing strong demand growth and looming regulatory and political uncertainty surrounding access to major supply sources.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, 67 industrial and agriculture energy consumers -- representing farm and food concerns and makers of chemicals, fertilizer, glass, paper and steel -- expressed concern about artificially creating power and transportation sector demand for natural gas through legislative incentives. Doing so, they said, would cause the type of fuel switching that has ripple effects through the economy.

Paul Cicio, president of the Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA), said legislating new demand would prompt increased price volatility and higher prices. Higher natural gas prices also mean higher electricity costs.

"The impact will be felt by all consumers, not just industrial users," Cicio said. "Farmers will pay more for fertilizer, natural gas to dry their crops and electricity to run their irrigation systems; homeowners will pay more to heat and cool their homes; and manufacturers would be confronted with greater competitiveness challenges which threaten jobs at home."

The coalition said gas demand has been steadily rising in the past decade without the incentives being contemplated in the Senate and in the absence of carbon caps, which will increasingly shift more power generators from coal to natural gas. The power sector's natural gas demand has grown by nearly 30% since 2001.

"The economic recovery and our energy security will be better served if U.S. energy policy ensures American manufacturing can continue to compete globally and keep its jobs here," said Peter Molinaro, Dow Chemical's vice president of federal and state government affairs. "Our economy needs a diverse base of price-sensitive natural gas consumers -- and a diverse energy supply -- in order to reduce price volatility in all energy sectors."

The letter urges the Senate to allow the market to set supply and demand for natural gas instead of picking 'winners' and 'losers' through legislation.

The coalition acknowledged there is great hope that the large shale gas reserves will materialize as recoverable supplies. "However, history has shown that unforeseen circumstances, including the potential for both federal and state regulations to be placed on shale drilling, can either slow its production, increase its costs or otherwise dramatically alter these types of future projections."

The industrial and agriculture consumers called for a coherent energy policy that balances gas demand with the economy's need for affordable supplies.

Signatories to the letter include: American Forest &Paper Association, Dow Chemical Company, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Land O' Lakes, Steel Manufacturers Association and The Fertilizer Institute.

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GM First to Market Greenhouse Gas-Friendly Air Conditioning Refrigerant in U.S.

/PRNewswire/ -- General Motors Co. will introduce a new greenhouse gas-friendly air-conditioning refrigerant in 2013 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models in the U.S. that keeps vehicle interiors as cool as today while reducing heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere by more than 99 percent.

The biggest benefit of the new refrigerant, (HFO-1234yf) supplied by Honeywell, is that it breaks down faster in the atmosphere than the refrigerant currently used (R-134a), On average, R-134a refrigerant has an atmospheric life of more than 13 years, giving it a global warming potential (GWP) of over 1,400.

By comparison, the new refrigerant lingers in the atmosphere for just 11 days and has a GWP of only 4, a 99.7 percent improvement. GWP is a value used to compare different greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. The base measurement for GWP is relative to that of carbon dioxide (CO2).

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awards regulatory credit for the improved environmental performance of the new refrigerant, which helps GM meet the overall requirements of the EPA's new motor vehicle greenhouse gas regulations. The new regulation requires an overall 40 percent improvement in overall U.S. fleet average vehicle fuel economy by 2016. The use of HFO-1234yf will help GM vehicles significantly exceed its targets under the new regulations.

"GM's decision to adopt this new refrigerant is additional proof of our commitment to be on the forefront of green technologies that will keep our planet healthy for our children and grand-children," said Mike Robinson, GM vice president of Environment, Energy and Safety Policy. "It's not just about meeting regulatory requirements; it's about environmental leadership and GM plans to lead in developing new technologies that will take the vehicle out of the environmental debate."

Said Terrence Hahn, vice president and general manager for Honeywell Fluorine Products: "We're pleased that GM is taking the lead in choosing HFO-1234yf, a refrigerant that has a lower impact on global warming. This is another example of how Honeywell is developing innovative new environmental and energy-efficient solutions to meet our customers' current and future needs."

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

IADC Applauds Senators' Leadership in Opposing Federal Drilling Moratorium

/PRNewswire/ -- The International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) applauds the leadership of three United States Senators: David Vitter (Louisiana), John Cornyn (Texas), and Roger Wicker (Mississippi), who are opposing the federal moratorium on offshore permitting and drilling activities announced on July 12 by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Last week the three Gulf Coast senators sponsored legislation (S. 3588) to lift the offshore drilling and permitting moratorium for companies that have complied with the new safety and inspection requirements issued by the Department of the Interior.

"The men and women whose livelihoods depend on the offshore oil and gas exploration and production industry in the Gulf of Mexico deeply appreciate the efforts of our legislators to lift the drilling moratorium," said IADC President Dr. Lee Hunt. "Industry representatives have communicated to the Interior Department and Congress our industry's strong commitment to rigorous requirements for well design, enhanced training, and adoption of safety case requirements for Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs). We are dismayed by the continued blanket suspension of deepwater drilling in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Lifting the moratorium is critical to tens of thousands of jobs in the deepwater industry and to the oil and gas service sector in the Gulf Coast region and throughout the country."

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Congress Passes Law to End Secrecy in Oil, Gas, and Mining Industry

/PRNewswire/ -- International humanitarian organization Oxfam America commends the U.S. Congress for making disclosure of payments from oil and mining companies to governments around the world a legal requirement. Included as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation passed by the House and Senate, this historic measure will increase financial transparency in the oil, gas, and mining industry and help reduce the corruption, mismanagement, and conflict that are too often associated with natural resource extraction booms.

"Congress has made an unprecedented commitment to financial transparency and good governance in a sector that not only affects American wallets, but also some of the most vulnerable communities around the world," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. "Secrecy of oil, gas and mining company payments to governments fosters government corruption and violent conflict in resource-rich countries that are home to more than half of the world's poorest people. Instability in these regions poses a long-term threat to national security, foreign policy, and economic interests in the United States."

The language included in the financial services reform measure was based on the Energy Security through Transparency Act (S. 1700), a bipartisan Senate bill championed by Senators Lugar (R-IN) and Cardin (D-MD). The new law creates a low-cost, uniform transparency method for oil, gas, and mining companies registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and covers more than 90 percent of internationally operating oil companies and many of the top international mining companies. Companies will be required to publicly disclose payments for the extraction of oil, gas, and minerals on a country-by-country and project basis as part of financial statements that are already required by the SEC. This not only includes American companies but also many foreign companies, such as Shell and BP, as well as companies from emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil, and Russia.

"This provision is a critical part of the increased transparency and corporate responsibility that we are striving to achieve in the financial industry. Given the catastrophic events in the Gulf of Mexico, oil companies, in particular, should well understand that secrecy fosters instability, corruption and greater risk," said Senator Cardin. "We now have the tools to help people in resource-rich countries hold their leaders accountable for the money made from their oil, gas and minerals."

"Too often, oil money intended for a nation's poor ends up lining the pockets of the rich or is squandered on showcase projects instead of productive investments," said Senator Lugar when he spoke in favor of the measure when it was offered as an amendment to the Senate financial reform bill in late May. (The Cardin-Lugar amendment was co-sponsored by Senators Durbin (D-IL), Schumer (D-NY), Feingold (D-WI), Merkley (D-OR), and Johnson (D-SD).) He added: "This 'resource curse' affects us as well as producing countries. It exacerbates global poverty which can be a seedbed for terrorism, it empowers autocrats and dictators, and it can crimp world petroleum supplies by breeding instability."

"We applaud Senators Cardin and Lugar for spearheading this effort in the Senate that will both level the playing field for oil, gas, and mining companies and help citizens hold their governments accountable for using revenues for economic development and poverty reduction. We also thank Senator Leahy for offering the measure during the House-Senate conference process and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank for his early leadership on transparency in the oil and mining industries and for his support for this measure that demonstrates U.S. commitment to transparent business practices and accountable governance," said Offenheiser.

"Passing this law sets up an international standard for the public disclosure of natural resource revenue information, but its effectiveness will be determined by strict implementation by lawmakers and development of effective implementing regulations by the SEC. Companies should heed the call for transparency so citizens of resource-rich countries can begin to use this information to hold their governments accountable for using revenues to address essential services like healthcare, education, and job creation."

Oxfam America calls on the SEC to quickly undertake its rule-making process to implement this important measure as Congress intended. "Oxfam America and its allies in the Publish What You Pay campaign will be closely following the rule-making process to ensure this groundbreaking disclosure measure is quickly put in place," said Offenheiser.

Oxfam America is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice. Together with individuals and local groups in more than 100 countries, Oxfam saves lives, helps people overcome poverty, and fights for social justice. Oxfam America is an affiliate of the international confederation Oxfam.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

ArcLight Acquires 640-MW Georgia Power Plant with $98 Million in Financing Led by GE Energy Financial Services

-(BUSINESS WIRE)--ArcLight Capital Partners, LLC, through its wholly-owned affiliate AL Sandersville Holdings, LLC, has acquired a 640-megawatt generation facility located in Sandersville, Georgia from KGen Power Corporation for $130 million. GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of GE (NYSE: GE), closed financing as the lead lender of the $98 million in senior secured credit facilities partially financing the acquisition.

Built in 2002, using eight 80-megawatt GE simple-cycle gas turbines, the Sandersville plant supplies power into the southeastern power market, particularly Georgia, during periods of peak demand or supply volatility. Sandersville is strategically located near four other facilities in Georgia owned by ArcLight through its affiliate Mackinaw Power, LLC, which have an aggregate capacity of 1,887 megawatts. Combined with Sandersville, this portfolio represents a more than 2,500-megawatt strategic platform making it the second largest independent power producer in the state, with the capacity to meet the peak demand of a city with a population of 450,000.

“This asset is an important addition to our southeast gas power generation facility portfolio that is well positioned to benefit from the current macroeconomic recovery and pending energy and carbon legislation, as well as the unconventional gas boom in the US," said Dan Revers, Managing Partner of ArcLight.

GE Energy Financial Services’ affiliate, GE Capital Markets, Inc., acted as sole lead arranger. Siemens Financial Services, Inc. joined GE Energy Financial Services in providing the $98 million in credit facilities comprised of a $78 million term loan and a $20 million letter of credit. Additional financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

“This transaction demonstrates GE Energy Financial Services’ deep expertise in power markets across the United States to provide debt financing for customers throughout the energy sector,” said Matt O’Connor, Managing Director, Financial Institutions Group at GE Energy Financial Services. “We applied our energy expertise to assess the southeastern power market which allowed us to structure and lead arrange this financing in a way that helps ArcLight grow and continue meeting power demand in the region.”

With approximately 50 dedicated professionals focused on debt products and services, GE Energy Financial Services provides structured, project and acquisition debt, revolving credit facilities, and corporate loans. The GE unit has a debt portfolio of nearly $7 billion, spanning power, oilfield services, pipelines, gas storage, refining, exploration and production, mining and fuel distribution. GE Capital Markets, Inc. provides arranging and syndication for many of these facilities.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Electric Utilities Across the State Offer $500 Reward for Identification of Copper Thieves

PRNewswire -- Georgia's electric utilities are offering $500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in the theft of copper and other metals from their property.

Copper thefts from substations, utility poles and lines continue to be a growing problem for the industry. These thefts threaten the reliability of the electric system. In addition, damaged lines pose a danger of electrocution to anyone in the area, including utility workers.

Any information could be vital to the identification of thieves. This problem affects many businesses throughout the state, and the utilities are aggressively working with law enforcement agencies and scrap recyclers to apprehend the perpetrators. This reward is one tool to encourage the public's assistance.

Details such as a tag number, a physical description of a person or a car could be especially helpful. Anyone who observes suspicious activity around an electric substation or other utility facility is asked to contact the statewide copper theft hotline at 1-877-732-8717. If a theft is in progress, the witness should notify 911 first, then contact the hotline.

The $500 reward was first announced in February of 2009. Today the state's electric utilities continue their commitment to prosecute thieves but depend on the public to provide information which could lead to the arrest of these criminals.

The reward will be paid to anyone who furnishes information that leads directly to the arrest and conviction of someone involved in metals theft from a utility property in Georgia. The $500 award is being offered by Dalton Utilities, Electric Cities of Georgia, 42 electric membership cooperatives (EMCs), Georgia EMC, Georgia Power, Georgia Transmission Corp. and Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia.

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Georgia Power Seeks Cost Recovery of Investments in Cleaner Generation, Smart Grid and Environmental Controls

PRNewswire -- Georgia Power on July 1 asked the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) for permission to increase its base rates approximately $615 million, or 8.2 percent of the company's retail rates, to recover the costs of investments in cleaner generation sources, power lines, smart grid technologies, environmental controls and energy efficiency programs to meet current and future customer demand.

The proposed change in rates would be effective Jan. 1, 2011.

"Georgia is the fourth-fastest growing state in the nation, and we have invested billions of dollars to serve that growth," said Ann Daiss, Georgia Power vice president, comptroller and chief accounting officer. "We must continue to invest in our infrastructure to maintain the reliable, affordable electricity and high level of customer satisfaction that our customers deserve and expect."

If the request is approved, the typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month would see an increase of about 10.1 percent, or $10.88. For business customers, the average increase would range from about 7.7 percent to 10.3 percent.

Additional increases, if approved, would become effective in subsequent years through existing and newly proposed cost-recovery mechanisms outlined in the filing. The company currently estimates increases for new generation, environmental controls and demand-side management programs are expected to increase the typical residential customer bill per month by about $5.38 in 2012 and $1.42 in 2013, respectively. These estimates will be updated through future filings with the PSC.

As of December 2009, the company's rates were approximately 14 percent below the national average and 7 percent below the Southeast average. Even with this proposed increase, Georgia Power's rates should remain below the national average, and its customers will be paying lower base rates today than they were in 1991 on an inflation-adjusted basis.

Since the last base-rate case in 2007, Georgia Power has invested almost $5 billion:

-- In reliability and Smart Grid - To ensure a stable and efficient grid,
and reliable service for customers.
-- In cleaner natural gas generation - To ensure adequate and cleaner
energy when customers need it. Plant McDonough Units 4, 5 and 6 are
scheduled to begin serving customers in January 2012, May 2012 and
January 2013.
-- For a cleaner environment - To continue to reduce emissions and meet
federal and state environmental standards. By 2015, the company
anticipates reducing nitrogen oxide emissions by 85 percent and sulfur
dioxide emissions by 95 percent from 1990 levels, and achieving
significant reductions in other emissions.

Georgia Power also is proposing changes to its current accounting order with the PSC that would:

-- Replace large rate changes with smaller, periodic adjustments.
-- Allow customers to benefit from cost controls and proactive management
on a timelier basis.
-- Allow customers to share in unexpected economic and/or weather
-- Support a more timely process for review of both past and projected
costs than the current lengthy and complex filings.
-- Help maintain the financial stability of the company and keep
financing costs low.

In addition, the company's plan features new energy-efficiency programs that will help customers control their energy use and save money. It also includes a new electric vehicle rate that encourages customers to charge at lower-cost, off-peak times and pay less for electricity.

The PSC will hold public hearings October through December. A final decision is expected Dec. 21, 2010, with new rates going into effect Jan. 1, 2011.

Georgia Power is the largest subsidiary of Southern Company, one of the nation's largest generators of electricity. The company is an investor-owned, tax-paying utility that serves 2.3 million customers and has operations in all but four of Georgia's 159 counties.

Cautionary Notice Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This press release includes forward-looking statements regarding Georgia Power's filing with the Georgia PSC to increase retail base rates, implement new base rate tariffs, and modify existing base rate tariffs. There are various factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those suggested by the forward-looking statements; accordingly, there can be no assurance that such indicated results will be realized. These factors include: state and federal rate regulations and the impact of pending and future rate cases and negotiations, including rate actions relating to fuel and other cost recovery and the Georgia PSC's review of Georgia Power's 2010 base rate case filing (the final outcome of which may differ materially from Georgia Power's proposal); the impact of recent and future federal and state regulatory change, including legislative and regulatory initiatives regarding deregulation and restructuring of the electric utility industry, implementation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, environmental laws including regulation of water quality, coal combustion byproducts, and emissions of sulfur, nitrogen, carbon, soot, particulate matter, hazardous air pollutants, including mercury, and other substances, and also changes in tax and other laws and regulations to which Georgia Power is subject, as well as changes in application of existing laws and regulations; current and future litigation, regulatory investigations, proceedings or inquiries, including the pending Environmental Protection Agency civil actions against Georgia Power, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission matters, and Internal Revenue Service audits; the effects, extent and timing of the entry of additional competition in the markets in which Georgia Power operates; variations in the demand for electricity, including those related to weather, the general economy and recovery from the recent recession, population and business growth (and declines), and the effect of energy conservation measures; available sources and costs of fuel; effects of inflation; ability to control costs and avoid cost overruns during the development and construction of facilities; investment performance of Georgia Power's employee benefit plans and nuclear decommissioning trusts; advances in technology; potential Department of Energy loan guarantees related to the potential Plant Vogtle expansion; internal restructuring or other restructuring options that may be pursued; the ability of counterparties of Georgia Power to make payments as and when due and to perform as required; the ability to obtain new short- and long-term contracts with wholesale customers; the direct or indirect effect on the business of Georgia Power resulting from terrorist incidents and the threat of terrorist incidents; interest rate fluctuations and financial market conditions and the results of financing efforts, and the credit ratings of Georgia Power; the ability of Georgia Power to obtain additional generating capacity at competitive prices; catastrophic events such as fires, earthquakes, explosions, floods, hurricanes, pandemic health events, such as influenzas, or other similar occurrences; the direct or indirect effects on the business of Georgia Power resulting from incidents affecting the U.S. electric grid or operation of generating resources; the effect of accounting pronouncements issued periodically by standard setting bodies; and other factors discussed in reports filed by Georgia Power from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2009. Georgia Power expressly disclaims any obligation to update these forward looking statements.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Europe's ETS Failures Forecast Problems For US Cap-And-Trade

/PRNewswire/ -- Today, as the Senate contemplates whether now is the time to act on climate proposals, the U.S. Climate Task Force released a new analysis of how Europe's cap-and-trade program has worked in practice. The report, "Europe's Emissions Trading System," by Harvard economist and international trade expert Richard Cooper, details how this approach has produced substantial volatility in the price of carbon, proven to be vulnerable to significant abuses, and has failed to spur any meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In order for a climate program to achieve significant, long-term effects, Dr. Cooper notes, "a steady, persistent price signal should be sent to all decision-making agents that they should reduce CO2 emissions at all times." Such a signal can be achieved through a revenue-neutral, carbon fee or tax.

"Dr. Cooper's in-depth analysis supports what many long speculated - carbon trading schemes are costly and ineffective," adds Dr. Elaine Kamarck, former senior policy advisor to Vice President Al Gore and current CTF Co-chair. "These failings may explain why a 2009 Hart Research survey found that only two percent of US voters hold very positive view of cap and trade - the system at the core of the current Senate bill. Using the trials and errors of Europe's ETS as guideposts, Washington lawmakers can make a much needed course correction on America's climate policy."

CTF Chair Dr. Robert Shapiro, former U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce and senior advisor to Bill Clinton notes, "the myriad problems inherent in Europe's ETS will only be exacerbated in the US. While permit prices fluctuated from 30 Euros at its height to zero Euros at its five year low, the EU reduced GHG emissions by a mere two percent. If the US Congress truly aims to pass effective, long-term climate legislation - as it must -- a carbon-based tax of the type that been highly successful in Scandinanvia is the only sensible course."

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