NewEnergyNews: SENATE REJECTS NEW ENERGY INCENTIVES IN COMPROMISE PACKAGE

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: THE DIFFERENT WAYS TO MAKE THE TRANSITION TO NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 29: WIND MAY TIP KANSAS ELECTION; YOUNG VOTERS BRING NEW ENERGY; GREEN BUILDINGS BOOMING
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE AFFORDABILITY OF THE NEW ENERGY TRANSITION
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 28: WIND BOOMS AS ‘MOST AFFORDABLE ENERGY OPTION’; OBSTACLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR BIG SOLAR; GEOTHERMAL COMING BACK
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE HEALTH IN EMISSIONS CUTS
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 27: NEW ENERGY OVER 40% OF U.S. NEW BUILD IN 2014; EMPLOYEE BENEFITS NOW INCLUDE SOLAR; WIND BRINGS JOBS TO MICHIGAN
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Talking With The Redwoods
  • Weekend Video: Evangelicals Confront Climate Change
  • Weekend Video: Living The Platinum Rule: Making The Best Invention Of All Time Better
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE- EU UPS THE WORLD’S BAR ON EMISSIONS CUT TARGETS
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-FIRST BIG MOROCCO SOLAR NEAR POWERING UP
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NORTH SEA WIND-HYDRO INTERLINK TO GROW
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-TURKISH GEOTHERMAL GETS INTELLIGENT
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Oct. 23:

  • TTTA Thursday-EVANGELICALS IN ‘CREATION CARE’ CLIMATE FIGHT
  • TTTA Thursday-ADVANCED WIND-MAKERS MAKANI, SHEERWIND READY DEMOS
  • TTTA Thursday-TEA PARTY BACKS SOLAR, ATTACKS UTILITY MONOPOLIES
  • TTTA Thursday-WHAT DRIVERS DON’T KNOW HOLDS BACK THE FUTURE
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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  • ---------------
  • Friday, February 08, 2008

    SENATE REJECTS NEW ENERGY INCENTIVES IN COMPROMISE PACKAGE

    Wind energy grew 45% in 2007. Solar energy set a record for installations. They provide 116,000 U.S. jobs. Expansion has been supported by favorable government policy since 2004. When Congress let tax credits expire in 1999, 2001, and 2003, new projects dropped precipitously. And yet the Senate has once again refused to extend the current credits due to expire at the end of the year.

    George Sterzinger, executive director, Renewable Energy Policy Project: "This credit has not only driven the momentum of the wind industry in the past year, but it has added a tremendous amount of jobs to the business…This will cause a total drop in the new construction of wind energy projects…"

    Make no mistake: Government policy sets and drives energy development. Subsidies and regulation saved the oil industry in the 1930s. NewEnergyNews calls not just for extensions of the tax credits but for recognizing them as a necessary, on-going feature of a sound energy policy, like the oil depletion allowance and oil's "golden gimmick."

    Interestingly, letting the New Energy tax credits expire may put Renewable Electricity Standards (RESs), passed by almost half the states and pending in several more, in grave jeopardy. Without federal incentives, there might not be enough installations to meet RES mandates for a specific portion of each state’s power to come from New Energy by a date certain.

    Jeff Wright, vice president, Midwest Wind Finance: "Because wind projects are multiyear investments, it would be a lot easier from the financing standpoint to have a more predictable tax model. The current schedule has an inhibiting effect for financers to take a risk on wind…"

    Might there be a basis for legal action from the states?


    Government policy has always been vital to the oil industry. The same is true of wind and other New Energies. In almost every modern nation, government policy determines energy development. By not standing up for New Energy, national leaders are doing the nation serious disservice. (click to enlarge)

    Wind energy’s future uncertain as Senate discards tax credit
    Leena Krishnaswamy, February 7, 2008 (Medill Report)
    and
    U.S. economy gets $168 billion injection from Congress
    David M. Herszenhorn and David Stout, February 7, 2008 (International Herald Tribune)

    WHO
    The U.S. Senate (Harry Reid (D-NV), Majority Leader), Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) (Senate Finance Committee Chair), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)(Randall Swisher, executive director)

    WHAT
    In an absolutely serious setback for U.S. New Energy industries, extensions for vital Production Tax Credits (PTCs) and Investment Tax Credits (ITCs) have once again been denied them by a minority in the U.S. Senate. This time the refusal of government incentives came when a compromise economic stimulus package was passed only after the New Energy tax credits were eliminated.

    World energy demand is only going one way. The U.S. is going to need all the energy infrastructure it can build. Why not encourage development before the crisis? (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - Approval of the compromise package came late February 7.
    - The PTCs and ITCs expire at the end of 2008. Because planning for large scale New Energy installations requires significant lead times, the extensions must come by this spring or projects will be cancelled.

    WHERE
    The compromise bill passed the Senate 81 to 16 and then was affirmed by the House of Representatives 380 to 34.

    WHY
    - The incentives, requiring $5.5 billion, would have subsidized increased wind, solar and other New Energy installations as well as home efficiency improvements.
    - Those in favor of the adding the tax credits and other spending had dared the Republican minority to reject such popular additions to the package. The minority called their bluff by fending off a cloture vote February 6, forcing the compromise.
    - The final stimulus package carried $168 billion in benefits, including Senate add-ons for senior citizens and disabled veterans.

    It is because of leadership like the Senate continues to display that the U.S. is behind and getting behinder. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Sen. Cantwell: "The addition of energy tax incentives would have meant millions of dollars of investment in the renewable energy industry and the addition of thousands of jobs in the American economy…"
    - Sen.Baucus: "Discretion is the better part of valor…The best thing for us to do is declare a big victory that we've achieved, namely getting the rebate checks to 20 million seniors and 250,000 disabled veterans."
    - Randall Swisher, executive director, AWEA: "With 116,000 jobs and nearly $19 billion in investment at risk in the renewable energy industries, the minority of the Senate has again frustrated the desire of millions of Americans across the political spectrum who overwhelmingly support clean, home grown energy…"
    - Stefan Noe, president, Midwest Wind Energy: "The production tax credit is a vital part of the overall project economics in the wind industry…It is extremely difficult for the wind industry to invest capital into large wind projects when a major part of the economics is out of place."
    - Michael Teck, Spanish wind energy power Gamesa: "It is plainly obvious that the non-renewal of this tax credit will have a very serious effect on the Midwest wind industry…Instead of being the Windy City, Chicago will now be the windless
    City."

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