E2 Round-up: Natural gas ‘fracking’ debate stays hot, the world goes dark for ‘Earth Hour,’ and oil sands on the march – or maybe not – in Utah

Remarks by Steven Chu, the energy secretary, to the IHS Cera energy conference in Houston this month, that gas produces fewer emissions than other fossil fuels, has given the industry hope.

He also said natural gas was important for enabling renewable energy, as it can provide power when sun or wind are unavailable.

Jim Hackett, chief executive of Anadarko, the oil and gas producer, and chairman of America’s Natural Gas Alliance, says the fact Mr Chu spoke up for natural gas showed that some parts of the administration understand its benefits.

But, he cautions: “We still need to have a statement from the president that national policy includes natural gas.’’

Elsewhere, the world was plunged into darkness – but in a good way – for Saturday’s “Earth Hour.” It’s the World Wildlife Fund-backed effort that urged people across the planet turn off the lights for an hour (8:30 p.m. local time) to raise awareness about fighting global warming.

WWF said roughly a billion people took part.

The Associated Press reports:

About 4,000 cities in more than 120 countries – starting with the remote Chatham Islands off the coast of New Zealand – voluntarily switched off, though traffic lights and other safety features were unaffected, organizers said.

From Sydney's Opera House to Beijing's Forbidden City to London's Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and New York's Empire State Building, the world's best-known landmarks went dark.

Back to the FT for a moment: The paper is reporting that Rajendra Pachauri, who heads the embattled UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has been “cleared of allegations of financial irregularity by an independently conducted review.”

IPCC critics had alleged a conflict of interest between his climate policy advocacy and separate corporate advisory work.

Reports the FT: “KPMG, the professional services company, examined the personal finances of Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, after media suggested late last year that he received money for advising several private sector companies, including Toyotaa and Credit Suissee. The review found these were all paid to Mr Pachauri’s non-profit organisation TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), which commissioned KPMG.”

The AP, via the Salt Lake Tribune, is reporting on a company trying to “launch the first significant U.S. oil sands project is trying to raise money to build a plant in eastern Utah that would turn out 2,000 barrels of oil a day.”

Oil sands have become a large – and environmentally controversial – source of Canadian oil production, but the industry has yet to take off in the U.S. despite interest by several companies.

AP reports:

Earth Energy Resources Inc. has a state lease to work a 62-acre pit in Uintah County, where it has demonstrated technology that can extract oil out of sands using a proprietary solvent it calls environmentally friendly.

But first, the Calgary, Alberta-based company says it needs to raise $35 million, and it acknowledged that could be tough because private equity groups turned skittish after the 2008 economic meltdown.

Earth Energy said it is “de-risking” the project to lure investors.

“Until we raise our capital, we are unable to proceed with the project in any major way, but the minute we do, we are fully prepared and committed to advance,” D. Glen Snarr, president and chief financial officer, told The Associated Press by e-mail. 

And Reuters serves another reminder of China’s big renewable energy push.