Energy News: Shell's Small Gulf Spill, NASA's Floating Algae Biofuel Project, More

Plus, more outcry over Indonesia chopping down rainforest in pursuit of palm oil and biofuels (further endangering orangutans' and myriad other animals' habitat); and the lack of direct connection between renewable energy targets and electricity rates.

Renewable Energy Targets Don't Raise Electricity Rates
A new study, covering multiple states, puts to rest the erroneous notion that setting strong renewable energy targets, in an of themselves, will inevitably raise electricity rates.

State renewable energy standards have no predictable impact on electricity rates. Even using an approach that attempts to isolate these standards from other factors driving rate changes, there’s simply too many other factors. Maryland, for example—where the standard appears to have had the worst impact—has seen dramatic changes due to how their restructuring program has been implemented: In the Baltimore area, restructuring caused rates to go up by 50 percent in 2007 alone.The conclusion is clear: Anyone who says they’ve looked at all of the states and found that renewable energy standards drive up rates is wrong. There are no data showing a nationwide pattern of these standards leading to rate increases for consumers. Instead, the data show that these standards do not cause electricity rates to go up faster than they otherwise would have, and that the standards are not responsible for electricity rates increasing faster than average.

More: Think Progress

NASA Developing Floating Algae Biofuel Farms
It's a long way from large-scale implementation, but it certainly does have a certain gee-whiz factor: In a sewage treatment plant near San Francisco, NASA is developing a way to produce algae for biofuel using floating plastic bags:

The setup is meant to solve some of the difficulties with making inexpensive fuels from algae. Algae need fertilizer to grow quickly, and wastewater is an excellent source of that. But large sources of wastewater—big cities—don't have the space needed for the artificial ponds that algae are typically grown in. Pumping the water to areas where land is cheap and plentiful is expensive and energy-intensive. Clear containers called photobioreactors might take up less space, but those, too, are expensive.

More: Technology Review

Shell's Gulf Oil Spill Small & Dispersing Rapidly
Yesterday afternoon the buzz was a potential oil spill at a Shell rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The alarm came from a 10 square mile area of oil sheen being spotted. Shell investigated and insists that the sheen didn't come from any of its operations, blaming the sheen on the Gulf's "long history of naturally occurring seeps." The good news is that whatever the source it appears that just six barrels of oil spilled (252 gallons). More: CNBC

Indonesian Palm Oil Deforestation Leading to Boycott
Green angst over expanding palm oil production in Indonesia, and the deforestation accompanying it is nothing new. Mongabay highlights what's bring this to to fore most recently: The destruction of peat forest in Tripa, Sumatra.

The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), an initiative run jointly by the Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari and the PanEco Foundation, says that unless the government suspends the contested plantation permits and prosecutes the "rogue companies" operating in the area, it will push for a suspension of Norway's billion dollar aid package for Indonesia's forests and a global moratorium on Indonesian palm oil that hasn't been certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). SCOP is also demanding international rejection of the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification scheme, which compels Indonesian palm oil companies to abide by Indonesian laws. SCOP says ISPO certification clearly falls short if it includes PT Kallista Alam, which it says is illegally clearing deep peat and protected forest in Tripa.

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