NewEnergyNews: THE ENERGY POLICY THAT WILL SWING THE VOTE IN THE HEARTLANDS

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

  • 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 DAY BEFORE

    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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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE IMPACT ON REAL PEOPLE OF RISING POWER PRICES
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 22: SCHOOLS SAVE W/GEOTHERMAL HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; BUILDING FOR NEXT-GEN U.S. BIOFUELS; ENERGY STORAGE MARKET EMERGING
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: WHERE U.S. OFFSHORE WIND WILL CONNECT
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 21: SOLARCITY TO CROWDFUND WITH $1,000 BONDS; NEW JERSEY LOOKS AT OCEAN WIND; SMART LED LIGHTING MRKT TO DOUBLE
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN TRANSMISSION
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 20: ELEVEN GOOD THINGS ABOUT SOLAR ENERGY; YAHOO BUYS WIND; SMART THERMOSTATS’ BILLION DOLLAR FUTURE
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • Weekend Video: The Ocean Speaks Out
  • Weekend Video: Adapting To The Inevitable
  • Weekend Video: The Joy Of Driving EVs Powered By The Sun
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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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  • Wednesday, October 29, 2008

    THE ENERGY POLICY THAT WILL SWING THE VOTE IN THE HEARTLANDS

    "The short memories of American voters is what keeps our politicians in office." (Will Rogers)

    Research shows the most effective political lies are those promising people what they want. It presumably follows that if a politician can't tell people what they want to hear, he would avoid saying anything.

    Which explains this item about the presidential campaigns in the heartlands via the Cincinnati Enquirer: “When the candidates talk about energy, what's left unsaid is this: The American lifestyle of bigger houses and more cars is built on inexpensive, available energy - and those days may be ending.”

    McMansions and freeway commuting are not habits cultivated exclusively by residents of the megalopolises on the blue coasts. The rising cost of heating and cooling and lighting and commuting is being felt in the November 4 "swing" state of Ohio and even in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region.

    Len Ellis, manufacturing engineer, on his daily 42-mile 1-way commute from Sparta, Ky., to Cincinnati: "I love it here and would never move, but I did start rethinking that commute this summer when the prices went up…when the prices go from $3.70 a gallon to $4.89 in a month like they did this summer, that's big…"

    Duke Energy, the region’s biggest utility, has requested permission from regulators to raise power rates 6% over the next 3 years.

    Keith Trent, group executive/chief strategy, policy and regulatory officer, Duke: "Here's the reality: Energy prices are most definitely going up…"

    How does this impact the election?

    While some states, like California, have shifted a significant and growing portion of their power generation to New Energy and a bigger portion of their power generation to natural gas, much of the middle part of the U.S., like the Greater Cincinnati region, still depends largely on coal.

    While commuters in many metro areas on the blue coasts can resort to widely-used public transportation, citizens in the heartland cities rely almost entirely on their cars – and trucks and SUVs.

    Result: Greater Cincinnati has the 3rd biggest emissions per capita of the top 100 U.S. metropolitan areas - and the numbers are worsening.

    The point: Both candidates have plans to cut emissions. Those plans, it is widely believed, will drive energy prices higher. That matters a LOT in the heartlands.

    The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Policy decisions by the next president and Congress will be critical in our region.”

    The cap-and-trade system both candidates have promised will only enhance this impact.

    Severin Borenstein, professor of business and public policy, University of California at Berkeley and director, UC Energy Institute: "So far, neither candidate has been willing to say that this will not be cheap…And it will not be cheap."

    An October 4-to-8 poll of Cincinnati voters showed 49% believe their standard of living is worse than that of their parents.

    Robert K. Kaufmann, director, Boston University Center for Energy and Environmental Studies: "The fraction of income that U.S. consumers spent on energy hit 4 percent in the 1990s, but that percentage has nearly doubled…"

    Which candidate will make voters believe he can turn all that around?

    Here’s the data: A September poll showed 55% of Ohio voters see New Energy investment as the most important priority for U.S. energy policy. Advantage Obama?

    59% of Ohio voters approve of building more nuclear plants to generate power. Advantage McCain?

    The likelihood is that heartland voters, hurting right now, are not in the mood for promises that will take a long time to come true. Therefore, their votes will go to whichever candidate can convince them his plan (“all of the above/drill baby drill” vs. “New Energy for America/a green New Deal”) will have the most immediate impact.

    The most recent polls show Ohio tilting toward Obama and Kentucky hard for McCain.

    Severin Borenstein, professor of business and public policy, University of California at Berkeley and director, UC Energy Institute: "Energy is the only commodity in America where consumers will not ... absorb fluctuation, because the way we live demands that we have to buy gas and electricity…There have been plenty of politicians who have spoken the hard truth and you never even hear of them because that's not the way to get to Congress or to the presidency."


    League of Conservation Voters assessment of McCain

    League of Conservation Voters assessment of Obama

    McCain energy policy statement

    Obama energy policy statement

    click for complete and updated polling info from RealClearPolitics

    Energy issues getting short shrift; Candidates loathe to address regions hard truths
    James Pilcher, October 26, 2008 (Cincinnati Enquirer)

    WHO
    Presidential candidates (Democratic Senator Barack Obama, Republican Senator John McCain); Severin Borenstein, professor of business and public policy, University of California at Berkeley and director, UC Energy Institute; Robert K. Kaufmann, director, Boston University Center for Energy and Environmental Studies; Keith Trent, group executive/chief strategy, policy and regulatory officer, Duke Energy; Len Ellis, Cincinnati region commuter

    WHAT
    How will the candidates’ energy policies will impact the U.S. heartlands?

    click to enlarge

    WHEN
    - Southwest Ohio/Northern Kentucky motorists paid 28% more for gasoline in 2008 than in 2007. So far, predictions have prices staying at 2008 levels in 2009.
    - 2000 to 2005: Greater Cincinnati per capita emissions worsened 12% while the nation’s worsened 2.2% and the 100 biggest cities worsened 1.1%.
    - Election day is November 4.

    WHERE
    - The article looks at the impacts of the candidates’ energy policies on the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region.
    - Duke Energy is based in Charlotte, N.C.

    WHY
    - The Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region is among the nation's biggest energy-hogs.
    - Ohio gets 86% of its electricity from coal and less than 1% from non-hydro New Energy.
    - Kentucky gets 87% of its electricity from coal and less than 1% from non-hydro New Energy.
    - Census data shows homes in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region are getting bigger and more expensive to heat and cool.

    click to enlarge

    QUOTES
    - Robert K. Kaufmann, director, Boston University Center for Energy and Environmental Studies: "Consumers get squeezed, and it leaves less money to spend on everything else. And what happens then? ... All those individual decisions to spend less in the past have gotten us into recessions…"
    - Severin Borenstein, professor of business and public policy, University of California at Berkeley and director, UC Energy Institute:"Politicians are not going to make any progress by saying that energy prices are going to be higher and that we just need to get used to it…"

    1 Comments:

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