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US halts solar energy projects over environment fears

Catherine Elsworth, UK Telegraph
The US government is putting a hold on new solar energy projects on public land for two years so it can study the environmental impact of sun-driven plants.

The Bureau of Land Management says the moratorium on solar proposals is needed to determine how a new generation of large-scale projects could affect plants and wildlife on the land it manages.

The move has angered some solar energy proponents who argue it could hold up the industry at a vital juncture, given the pressing need to secure alternative energy sources at a time of soaring oil prices. “This technology has been around for nearly three decades.

If there is an environmental concern, that can be addressed without putting a halt to this technology and helping to impact our greenhouse gas emissions and the environmental degradation from coal-fired and natural gas plants,” said Brad Collins, executive director of the American Solar Energy Society.

He said the review appeared to be an arbitrary “road block” that contradicted “the stated goals of both presidential candidates, the stated goals of Congress and the American public.”
(27 June 2008)
CNN video: Solar Energy Freeze (CNN)
NY Times: Citing Need for Assessments, U.S. Freezes Solar Energy Projects

Nevada Brothels Hit Hard by Gas Prices

Christina Caron, ABC News (US)
As the Silver State’s fuel prices hit all-time highs, Nevada’s brothel employees find it harder to make a living these days, leaving some people wondering whether they should stay in the business.

At the Stardust Ranch in eastern Nevada, bartender Cindy Howe says they’re “down to only two girls. They don’t want to come here because business is down.”

The brothel is about to change hands after soaring gas prices affected the number of customers willing to drive out to Ely. Now its owners are forced to sell.

Truckers, who provide steady business to many of Nevada’s 28 legal brothels, are now paying 40 percent more this year to fill up their rigs.
(23 June 2008)
Scott Chisholm Lamont writes:
This wasn’t quite what I was expecting to be added to the growing list of economic bad news related to the energy crunch, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Rising oil price raises insolvency prospect for dry-cleaners

Suzy Jagger, London Times
NEW YORK – Washable polyester almost finished them off in the 1960s and now the surging price of oil is putting American dry-cleaners out of business at the fastest rate for four decades.

The dry-cleaning business is particularly sensitive to the oil price because almost every part of their operations is either dependent on fuel or derived from it.

On Friday the price of oil hit a new high with light sweet crude climbing to $142.99 a barrel, before settling up 57 cents at $140.20. This time last year, the price of oil was $88 a barrel.

Dry-cleaners use oil-based solvents to clean suits, jackets and ties and they have seen their operating costs increase almost threefold in two years as the oil price continues to rise.
(30 June 2008)

As Gas Prices Rise, Teenagers’ Cruising Declines

Karen Ann Cullotta, New York Times
For car-loving American teenagers, this is turning out to be the summer the cruising died.

Kevin Ballschmiede, 16, pined for his 1999 Dodge Ram — “my pride and joy” — the other night as he hung out in a parking lot in this town outside Chicago. Given that filling the 26-gallon tank can now cost more than $100, he had left it at home and caught a ride.

From coast to coast, American teenagers appear to be driving less this summer. Police officers who keep watch on weekend cruising zones say fewer youths are spending their time driving around in circles, with more of them hanging out in parking lots, malls or movie theaters.
(29 June 2008)

Drop in revenue strains municipal budgets

Jay Parsons, Dallas Morning News
Halfway into 2008, sales tax revenue is down in 30 North Texas cities and below projections in many others – further straining municipal budgets already stressed by flattening property values and escalating utility and fuel costs.

The declines have come widely as a surprise, as many cities had forecast modest growth. So far, many are absorbing the sales tax declines and rising expenses with accounting maneuvers, delayed expenditures and hiring freezes.

But as they begin preparing for the next fiscal year, which for most starts Oct. 1, many say tough decisions await.

“This is unique because we’re experiencing commodity costs exploding – gas, electricity – and at the same time, revenues are down in both property and sales taxes,” Lancaster City Manager Ricky Childers said.
(29 June 2008)

U.S. Power Agency Warns High Electricity Prices Could Plague America ‘For Years to Come’

Energy Tech Stocks
America’s federal power agency has warned that high power prices could plague the nation “for years to come.”

Citing high commodity prices for natural gas and coal, which were the fuel sources for 18% and 50%, respectively, of U.S. electricity generation in 2007, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said this “may be the beginning of significantly higher power prices that will last for years to come.” The agency didn’t say exactly how high it thinks prices could rise, but has learned that one major U.S. electric utility is now assuming in its internal forecasts that power prices in its region will double within five years or less.
(30 June 2008)

The Oil Debate: Legislative And Policy Responses To High Energy Prices
Energy Policy TV
Panelists, including Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, describe their perspectives on legislation, and potential legislation, coming out of Congress to deal with record-high fuel prices. They discuss the role of speculation in high prices, expanded domestic drilling to increase supply, potential of alternative fuels as well as conservation and the efficacy of a windfall profits tax levied on oil producers
(20 June 2008)
Sound quality is poor. -BA