NewEnergyNews: 02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008

NewEnergyNews

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

The new challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: THE DOE LOAN PROGRAM PAYS OFF
  • QUICK NEWS, November 25: THE PRESIDENT’S CLIMATE CHANGER; SOLAR AND WIND BEAT COAL, GAS ON PRICE; LED LIGHTING TO DISRUPT, TRANSFORM THE INDUSTRY
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: RUNNING OUT OF GAS
  • QUICK NEWS, November 24: NEW ENERGY DOMINATES THE U.S. NEW BUILDS AGAIN; SIERRA CLUB, UNITED STEELWORKERS WANT WIND JOBS; THE ABUNDANCE OF SOLAR
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Much More Inhofe Now
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart Talks Keystone, Politics, And Jobs
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart On How Keystone Opponents May Be Caught In Their Own Trap
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-A NEW WAY TO SEE CLIMATE CHANGE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-EU OCEAN WIND TO CUT COSTS, KEEP GROWING
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-COST-COMPETIVE NEW ENERGY, GERMANY’S ‘GIFT TO THE WORLD’
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NEW ENERGY MATCHES COAL ON COST, CAPACITY IN TURKEY
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, November 20:

  • TTTA Thursday-TOP REPUBLICAN DROPS CLIMATE DENIAL
  • TTTA Thursday-FORD ELECTRIC CARS FOR ‘THE MASSES’
  • TTTA Thursday-MIDWEST SOLAR MAKES SENSE AND CENTS
  • TTTA Thursday-NEW ENERGY JOBS BY THE BAY
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: THE MIDWEST GRID IS READY FOR 40% NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, November 19: OHIO NEW ENERGY JOBS REPORT SUPPRESSED; SOLAR GIANT BUYS WIND DEVELOPER; BUSINESS TO MAKE IT BIG IN SMART CITIES
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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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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • Friday, February 29, 2008

    CALIFORNIANS FIGHTING CAP-AND-TRADE

    Economists typically see a tax on greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions as the most effective way government can mitigate climate change.

    California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, master of the politically possible, is leading the charge for a cap-and-trade system. A cap-and-trade system sets an iron-clad cap on emissions by each business or manufacturing entity and allocates credits for the allowed emissions. An entitiy can only exceed its cap by buying credits from another entity that finds a way to do business at emissions below its capped level. Entities that find ways to cut emissions can profit by selling their excess credits in an emissions trading market. Entities generating excessive emissions must buy extra credits in the market or face procrustean fines.

    Cap-and-trade is considered a less certain weapon against climate change because the tax can be set progressivley higher until emissions are too costly while markets are less predictable. But the tax is a creature of big government while cap-and-trade "partners" with the marketplace. A trading system was used effectively in the late 1980s and early 1990s against acid rain pollution and another is presently being tested and tweaked by the European Union.

    California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) is working out a cap-and-trade plan, required by law to be in place by the end of this year, to cut the state’s GhG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. After extensive consultations, CARB is clear that cap-and-trade is the choice of politicians and pragmatists while economists and perfectionists want a tax. What is more difficult is that some California environmentalists are siding with the economists.

    Angela Johnson Meszaros, director, California Environmental Rights Alliance: "Cap-and-trade is a charade to continue business as usual…"

    Resistance to cap-and-trade may spread beyond the narrow spectrum of economists and idealistic environmentalists but for now there is an inevitability to a trading system. Governor Schwarzenegger is organizing a group of western states and western Canadian provinces into a regional trading program. Another system is emerging in the northeast. A national program is expected to come before the Senate after the November election. It is sponsored by Republican Senator John Warner (Va) and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman (Conn) and it is endorsed by Presidential candidates/Senators McCain (Az), Clinton (NY) and Obama (Ill).

    Opposition to cap-and-trade in California is so far from lesser-known environmental groups while the more widely recognizable "name" environmentalists (ex: Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club) have not taken a side on the issue.

    The most succinct way to convey the tone and character of the California Environmental Justice Movement’s opposition is to let it speak for itself:

    “…BE IT THEREFORE, RESOLVED, that the California Environmental Justice Movement stands with communities around the world in opposition to carbon trading and offset use and the continued over reliance on fossil fuels; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the California Environmental Justice Movement will support conservation, regulatory, and other measures to address greenhouse gases only if they directly and significantly reduce emissions, require the shift away from use of fossil fuels and nuclear power, and do not cause or exacerbate the pollution burden of poor communities of color in the United States and developing nations around the world; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the California Environmental Justice Movement will oppose efforts by our state government to create a carbon trading and offset program, because such a program will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the pace called for by the international scientific community, it will not result in a shift to clean sustainable energy sources, it will support and enrich the state's worst polluters, it will fail to address the existing and future inequitable burden of pollution, it will deprive communities of the ability to protect and enhance their communities…”


    From stated criteria, the Governor and CARB do not intend problems - but does the system create the problems? (click to enlarge)

    Proponents of cap-and-trade insist the key to success is the accurate determination of what portion of emissions credits should be freely alloted to GhG producing business entities and what portion should be auctioned. If too many credits are given free, the price goes down and there is no disincentive to emit. If too many are auctioned, the price is too high and both trade and business activity are impeded. If the auctioned portion of credits is in the right range, businesses will participate and emissions will be reduced.

    Some argue that the funds raised from the credit auction can assuage any harm done to poor communities by the trading system. Others are dubious.


    Groups vow to fight carbon emissions cap-and-trade plan
    Margot Roosevelt, February 20, 2008 (LA Times)

    WHO
    California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; Mary Nichols, chairwoman, California Air Resources Board (CARB); Jane Williams, California Communities Against Toxics; Angela Johnson Meszaros, director, California Environmental Rights Alliance; CARB Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, Jane Williams and Angela Johnson Meszaros, co-chairs;

    The basic problem. (click to enlarge)

    WHAT
    The California Environmental Justice Movement’s Declaration on Use of Carbon Trading Schemes to Address Climate Change

    WHEN
    2006: California passed AB32 requiring 25% reduction of GhGs by 2020.

    The basic solution - and much credit to Arnold for leading the way. But how much political pushback will there be? (click to enlarge)

    WHERE
    The "Environmental Justice Movement Declaration" comes from a coalition of groups in 5 cities: Los Angeles, Fresno, Oakland, Sacramento and San Diego

    WHY
    - The Environmental Justice Movement Declaration lists 21 points of objection to the EU ETS cap-and-trade system and the general concept.
    - The 18 group-coalition includes the San Joaquin Valley Latino Environmental Advance Project, Oakland's West County Toxics Coalition, the L.A. chapter of the Physicians for Social Responsibility and Delano's Assn. of Irritated Residents.
    - The coalition wants fees on all GhG emissions.

    California's timeline. No doubt the federal government will be coming along behind. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Jane Williams, California Communities Against Toxics: "Under a trading scheme, 11 power plants to be built around Los Angeles could offset emissions by extracting methane from coal seams in Utah or planting trees in Manitoba…"
    - Mary Nichols, chairwoman, CARB: "[Climate change requires] the most cost-effective solution to reducing emissions…This problem is too big and complicated to rule any technique off the table."
    - Angela Johnson Meszaros, director, California Environmental Rights Alliance: "We're concerned that proceeds from an auction won't be applied to transitioning us to a zero-carbon future. State law requires that fees be used for the issue for which the fee is assessed. But with budget shortfalls in California, proceeds from an auction are going to be sucked into filling the holes."

    TRAINING GREEN COLLAR WORKERS IN OHIO

    As Ohio prepares to play its pivotal role in deciding the next Democratic Presidential nominee, its governor and business leaders remain busy training the workforce to build and operate the energy infrastructure the next presidency must nurture and grow.

    The Cleveland Indians installed solar panels at their ballpark last summer. Somebody had to do the installation and somebody has to do the maintenance and NAFTA can't touch those jobs. (click to enlarge)

    Ohio Pioneers Development of Green Collar Workers for Advanced Energy Jobs; Colleges and universities offer programs and training to meet growing demand
    February 27, 2008 (PR Newswire via Yahoo Finance)

    WHO
    The Ohio Business Development Coalition (OBDC); Third Frontier Project; American Solar Energy Society (ASES); Hocking College Energy Institute; Ohio Governor Ted Strickland

    click to enlarge

    WHAT
    OBDC is working with a variety of organizations and institutions in the state, readying New Energy’s green collar workforce to serve the needs of the energy infrastructure of the 21st century.

    WHEN
    - An ASES study predicts that 174,000 Ohioans could have jobs in New Energy by 2030.
    - Governor Strickland introduced “Energy, Jobs and Progress” in 2007.

    Solar energy industry manufacturers and businesses in Ohio. There is nothing special about Ohio's sun. Other states can do as well. All it takes is the commitment. (click to enlarge)

    WHERE
    - Ohio universities and colleges are setting up new classes, degree programs, degrees and training for the New Energy industries.
    - Hocking College is in Nelsonville, Ohio.

    WHY
    - The Hocking College Energy Institute, funded by a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration, will develop a new training facility with learning labs specific to New Energy programs.
    - Ohio’s New Energy programs offer opportunities for New Energy companies. An educated work force will be another incentive to bring such companies into Ohio’s economy.
    - Governor Strickland's Energy, Jobs and Progress calls for an Advanced Energy Portfolio Standard as well as for modernizing Ohio energy infrastructure and developing New Energy jobs while managing consumer power prices.
    - Strickland’s program also calls for development of 1st and 2nd generation ethanols and biodiesel fuels.
    - Ohio's Third Frontier Project is a 10-year, $1.6 billion program to coordinate between companies and academia. It is Ohio's biggest -ever commitment to expand high-tech research and innovation and build businesses and high-paying jobs.

    Wind energy industry manufacturers and businesses in Ohio. Other states can do as well. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Jerry Hutton, dean of energy and transportation technologies, Hocking College: "This state-of-the-art facility is truly a place where students will receive hands on training in advanced energy…Training skilled workers is critical to attracting renewable energy companies to Ohio and recharging the state's manufacturing base."
    - Ed Burghard, executive director, OBDC: "Ohio is at the heart of next-generation, advanced energy industry success…In addition to the development of a highly skilled workforce to meet the ever-growing green collar industry demands, Ohio-based companies benefit from the state's continued effort to focus on creating a profit-friendly business environment through revamped tax and tort laws…"

    MICHIGAN GOVERNOR FIGHTS FOR NEW ENERGY

    Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has, in recent months, been a true champion of New Energy. Seeing a huge economic opportunity to reinvent Michigan’s flagging manufacturing sector, she has been traveling the state explaining to business and labor leaders what a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) could mean to them in growth and jobs. Growth and jobs in the domestic New Energy sector are not likely to be stolen away from the state by outsourcing the way the auto manufacturing industry was.

    The bipartisan efforts of Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Township) and Sen. Bruce Patterson (R-Canton Township and chair, Senate Energy Policy Committee) typify the "above-politics" importance of developing New Energy and Gov. Granholm praised them for it: "They completely understand, I believe, the urgency of this…"

    If only national leaders in Washington, D.C., could find the integrity to rise above petty partisanship on the issue of New Energy.

    Granholm is also talking about another, more complicated aspect of energy policy. Energy consumption must be curbed. Utilities must incentivize and advocate for that. But if consumers use less energy, that means utilities would sell less energy. Why would utilities want to do that? Some states are solving this dilemma by adding a small charge to each user’s utility bill. The bill add-on is less to the consumer than what rising utility costs would be. The money goes to utilities that successfully reduce their customers' consumption. Combined with savings from cutting their own energy costs, the utilities come out ahead as well.


    Michigan's coastal and offshore wind energy assets are truly impressive. What an investment opportunity! (click to enlarge)

    Granholm says Michigan is a renewable energy ‘backwater’
    Chris Christoff, February 26, 2008 (Detroit Free Press)

    WHO
    Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm; House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Township) and Sen. Bruce Patterson (R-Canton Township and chair, Senate Energy Policy Committee); DTE and Consumers Energy, Michigan’s biggest utilities

    Governor Granholm. (click to enlarge)

    WHAT
    Granholm, fighting to get her legislature to pass a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) requiring the state’s utilities to obtain 10% of their power from New Energy, called Michigan a “backwater.” She is trying to convince Michiganders and state leaders an RES and the proper incentives to conserve will move them "…to the front of the pack" in attracting New Energy industry.

    Michigan is also rich in biomass resources. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - Michigan House and Senate leaders are expected to reach agreement on the state RES in March.
    - Granholm’s State of the State address in January called for an RES requiring 10% of electricity from New Energy by 2015 and 25% by 2025.

    WHERE
    At least 28 states already have an RES in place and several more legislatures are debating the idea presently with their governors urging them to vote “yes.”

    WHY
    - Granholm specified the state’s loss of economic opportunity and jobs in the wind energy sector due to the legislature’s reluctance to establish an RES that would give wind energy industry manufacturers a baseline assurance.
    - Granholm praised Speaker Dillon and Chairman Patterson for vigorous bipartisan leadership on the RES.
    - Michigan’s biggest utilities, DTE and Consumers Energy, are in a power struggle with smaller companies. They say they are prepared to invest $6 billion in Michigan wind farms if new laws establish supportive policies.

    Until it passes a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), Michigan has not even BEGUN to write New Energy success stories. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Gov. Granholm, on RES deliberations in the legislature: "This ought to be done by March. If it's not, something is wrong…"
    - Greg Bird, spokesman, Michigan House Democrats: "It's a way Michigan can become a renewable energy hub and create many jobs. We realize its importance…"

    Thursday, February 28, 2008

    SENATORS FOR 36% OF PEOPLE MAY BLOCK NEW ENERGY FOR ALL

    Senators representing only 36.5% of the U.S. population, as calculated by NewEnergyNews, are expected to block vital energy legislation approved February 27 in the House of Representatives by a 236 to 182 majority.

    Using record oil prices and oil company profits and soaring gas pump prices to justify revisiting this energy package, House leaders passed legislation funding $8+ billion in New Energy incentives by shifting subsidies and tax breaks the NY Times called “…wholly unnecessary…” away from the oil and gas industry.

    The Senate is expected to reject this vital energy legislation. Similar legislation was passed by the House of Representatives in 2007 but stopped in the Senate. The Senate again rejected the New Energy incentives package when Senate leaders attempted to include it in the recently passed economic stimulus package. Both times the New Energy incentives were blocked by the Senate only because the arcane filibuster rule allows 41 Senators to prevent legislation.

    Using
    a map produced by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and July 2007 population statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, NewEnergyNews calculates that Senators representing a mere 36.5% of the U.S. population will stand in the way of legislation that would incentivize the ongoing construction of a New Energy infrastructure for the entire U.S.

    With vital tax credit extensions blocked by this small minority in the Senate, the wind, solar and ocean energies industries as well as energy efficiency and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle industries may be left to flounder.

    NewEnergyNews’ calculations used the AWEA map to determine that both Senators from the following states voted against the New Energy incentives in the economic stimulus package and may be expected to do so again: Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, New Hampshire. The total population of these states is 75,200,604 people.

    One of the two Senators from the following states voted against that package: Nevada (shifted from the 2-Senators to the 1-Senator category because Senator Reid’s “no” vote was for parliamentary reasons), Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia. Half of the populations of these states represents 36,502,940 people.

    The “no” voters represented 111,703,544 of a total U.S. population of 305,986,357. Thus, the Senators who voted “no” on the New Energy incentives (and may be expected to do so again) represent only 36.5% of the total U.S. population.


    Calculations began with this map. Red=2 Senators voted against New Energy incentives; Gray=1 Senator voted against; Green=2 Senators voted for. The "no" vote represented only 36.5% of the U.S. population. (click to enlarge)

    One facet of oil and gas industry strategy to oppose the bill is to raise the question of energy security. American Petroleum Institute: "New taxes ... will even further reduce our energy security by discouraging new domestic oil and natural gas production and refinery capacity expansions…"

    How incentivizing domestic energy production makes the U.S. less secure is a mystery. At the rate the oil companies are selling petroleum, they would be foolish not to expand their production and refinery capacity - unless there is something wrong with their business model that requires them to depend on government subsidies long after they have becme immensely profitable.

    Letter from 100+ businesses, utilities, environmental groups and efficiency advocates: "These incentives must be extended immediately to avoid significant harm to the development of clean energy industries in the United States…"


    House OKs New Taxes on Big Oil Companies
    H. Josef Hebert, February 27, 2008 (AP)

    WHO
    The U.S. House of Representatives, 236 voting in the affirmative and 182 voting in the negative.

    WHAT
    The House passed H.R. 5351, approving a package of incentives and tax credit extensions for New Energies, for energy efficiency measures, for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and for expansion of biofuels in fueling stations.

    click to enlarge

    WHEN
    The bill was passed February 27.

    WHERE
    - The bill now goes to the Senate where it is expected to be rejected although Congressional leaders and New Energy advocates hold out some hope that public outrage over record high oil prices and profits and soaring gas pump prices might motivate recalcitrant Senators in the sway of the oil and gas industry to shift away from the dark side.
    - White House spokespersons have indicated the President will veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

    WHY
    - The bill would impose $17.65 billion in new taxes over 10 years on oil companies that reportedly earned $123 billion in profits in 2007.
    - Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) said that gas pump prices are up 75 cents/gallon and ExxonMobil Corp. reported a record $40.6 billion in profits for 2007 since the Senate rejected the 2007 House energy package.
    - The bill withdraws 2005 tax breaks on domestic oil and gas production and limits tax breaks allowed for foreign oil and gas production.

    Population distribution is uneven but every state gets 2 Senators. It was designed to make change difficult. It is. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Rep Jim McDermott (D-Wash.): "…stop the madness of subsidizing oil companies…" when the industry earned $123 billion last year.
    - Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.): "Gas prices have been soaring…[people are] struggling to pay energy costs that have skyrocketed in a harsh winter."
    - Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas): "This bill singles out one industry…"
    - The White House: "[The bill’s provisions] would reduce the nation's energy security rather than improve it [and] lead to higher energy costs to U.S. consumers and business."

    TRANSMISSION-TO-US INTERRUPTUS (CONT’D)

    Wind energy production grew 45% in 2007 and wind energy is now generating 1% of U.S. electricity. Up to now, wind energy producers have been able to mostly use existing high voltage transmission lines. To contribute higher levels of electricity, wind energy producers need dedicated lines.

    Texas has more installed wind energy capacity than any other state. By the end of 2008, it is expected to exceed existing transmission capacity by 65%. Just 30% of Minnesota’s planned 7,500 megawatts for the Twin Cities will exceed the 2,000 megawatt transmission capacity.

    This presents a chicken-and-egg conundrum: Turbine builders don’t want to install wind farms and then be forced to wait for transmission to be strung to them. But utilities cannot undertake the enormous expense of building new transmission without a commitment from the wind builders.

    Extra complication: The first wind developer in the area pays the biggest share of the cost so nobody wants to go where no wind has been built before.

    Cost of new transmission: $1.5 million/mile.

    Possible solution: Plans are being worked out to share transmission-line costs between wind installation developers and utilities in Texas, the Southwest, Minnesota and California.


    The North American grid. (click to enlarge)

    NewEnergyNews reported on the basics of this matter in June 2007: WINDPOWER 2007: TRANSMISSION-TO-US INTERRUPTUS?

    Wind energy confronts shortage of transmission lines
    Paul Davidson, February 25, 2008 (USA Today)

    WHO
    Stow Walker, analyst, Cambridge Energy Research Associates; Bill Bojorquez, vice president, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT); Denise Hill, executive, Horizon Wind Energy; Clair Moeller, executive, Midwest grid operator; Paul Bonavia, head of utilities, Xcel

    Some U.S. transmission corridors are under renovation. All need upgrading. (click to enlarge)

    WHAT
    Wind energy’s astonishing growth may be hampered by the need for new transmission infrastructure and the prohibitive costs of building it.

    WHEN
    - Wind farms typically take 12 to 24 months to install. Transmission can take 5 or even 10 years to work out and construct.
    - Several Midwestern states may fail to reach legislative mandates for 20% of their electicity to come from New Energy sources by 2020.

    The U.S. grid has been growing overburdened year by year. Like so much other infrastructure, it has gone neglected. (click to enlarge)

    WHERE
    - Wind energy has expanded rapidly in rural areas of Texas, California and the Midwest. Electricity demand is growing fastest in cities.
    - Wind energy capacity Texas is expected to over reach existing transmission capacity by 65% by the end of 2008.
    - Planned wind energy development in Minnesota will exceed existing capacity to carry it to the Twin Cities by more than 3 times.

    WHY
    - Slowing wind energy growth may prevent states from meeting legislatively mandated levels of electricity from New Energy sources.
    - The inadequacies of existing transmission in Texas and Minnesota are also found throughout the Midwest, Southwest and in California.
    - Utilities don’t want to be burdened by costs for transmission if it serves neighboring states. They also don’t want to burden their customers with transmission costs to areas where wind farms are not ready to generate.

    It has only worsened in the last half-decade. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Denise Hill, executive, Horizon Wind Energy: "Clearly we don't want to build wind farms and have them not run…"
    - Paul Bonavia, head of utilities, Xcel:"You're committing $1 billion in capital in the hope the cost recovery will come, and that's a tough proposition…"

    STORING ENERGY GETTING BETTER

    Everybody can understand the power of the sun and the wind. Considering the abundance of that power, nothing but greedy self-interest could keep any reasonable person from wanting to put that power to work and gently, progressively, leave fossil fuels and dangerous power production behind.

    Batteries and battery-like devices may not be as intuitively obvious as sun and wind but by resolving limitations associated with the intermittency of solar and wind generation, they may be the key to the success of sun and wind.

    Tim Hennessy, chief executive, battery maker VRB Power: "It's been in the background until now. It's not sexy. It's the enabler…"

    From another point of view, energy storage device technologies offer an interesting investment opportunity to money seeking a New Energy bet. Present sources of electricity demand are rising steadily. Automakers are moving toward partially- or fully-electric powered vehicles. There will soon be unprecedented levels of demand from the grid. Companies with energy storage technologies just coming into the marketplace that make it possible to get more of the supply to meet that demand from New Energy may very well turn out to be lucrative buys.

    Jim Heathcote, CEO, ITM Power: "The one problem everyone's had is how to store. The ability to take (surplus) renewable energy and make useful fuel out of it is almost priceless…"

    Market capitalization value for Ener1, parent company of EnerDel which will produce lithium-ion batteries for Th!nk City, the world’s first mass-produced electric vehicle (EV), has jumped 10 times in the last 2 years to $700 million.


    Norway's Th!nk will beat Toyota and GM to the showroom floor next year, using a lithium-ion battery from Ener1. (click to enlarge)

    Energy storage nears its day in the sun
    Gerard Wynn, February 22, 2008 (Reuters via Yahoo News)

    WHO
    Tim Hennessy, chief executive, VRB Power; Jim Heathcote, CEO, ITM Power; Charles Gassenheimer, parent company chairman, EnerDel;

    WHAT
    Energy storage technology is being developed to allay the biggest complaint against wind energy and solar energy, their intermittency.

    Ener1 claims a variety of advances on other lithium-ion batteries. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - 2008: VRB Power will begin mass producing a longer-lasting battery than those currently used to store solar system-generated electricity.
    - 2008: ITM Power will begin production of its elctrolyzers.
    - 2009: ITM Power will begin production of its fuel cells.
    - 2009: Th!nk City, with an EnerDel lithium-ion battery, will be the first mass-produced EV in the world.

    WHERE
    - This report on energy storage comes from CleanEquity Monaco 2008.
    - VRB Power is based in British Colombia.
    - ITM Power is based in the UK.
    - EnerDel is based in Indianapolis, Indiana.
    - Think Global is based in Norway.

    WHY
    - VRB Power is bringing Hybrid Power Systems to the market.
    - ITM Power is developing a system that will utilize solar or wind systems to electrolyze hydrogen so that it can be stored in a fuel cell. They hope to avoid the costs of battery materials like cadmium.
    - EnerDel is working to make a cheaper, lighter lithium-ion battery for the Th!nk City EV from Think Global.
    - The Th!nk City EV will have a battery power range of 100 miles and will go from 0 to 60 in 8 seconds.

    VRB Power is doing BIG energy storage. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Tim Hennessy, chief executive, battery maker VRB Power: "It's been in the background until now. It's not sexy. It's the enabler, not a source of energy…"
    - Jim Heathcote, CEO, ITM Power: "With batteries you're taking enormous quantities of basic raw materials…Two things we're confident of is the supply of renewable energy and water…"
    - Charles Gassenheimer, parent company chairman, EnerDel: "I think energy storage is the next frontier…"

    Wednesday, February 27, 2008

    FIRST SOLAR: FIRST IN SUN, FIRST IN EARNINGS

    The Wall Street Journal writer in this good news about First Solar Inc. raises the oft-repeated canard about solar energy’s land requirements: “One drawback of solar technology is that it takes lots of modules spread over a large geographic area to make a significant amount of electricity. Project costs are driven by land and equipment costs. By contrast, a gas-fired power plant makes vast amounts of electricity from a small footprint. Fuel, not equipment or land, drives the cost.”

    A small footprint? Those gas plants are big facilities and the ones to be equipped with emissions-capture equipment are going to be bigger. And what about gas pipeline rights-of-way? That's more land. And gas fields. That’s all land usage. And the gas drilling equipment, the pipelines, the plant hardware - that costs less than solar modules? Not likely. And what about the costs of carbon capture equipment? And then there are the LNG factors necessary to keep the U.S. burning gas as domestic supplies dwindle: A special fleet of ships, offshore terminals, undersea pipelines...How anybody can think solar installations require significantly more costs and space than all that is utterly baffling.

    NewEnergyNews reported First Solar’s stunning 2007 growth early in February in
    FIRST SOLAR & IBERDROLA JOIN BIGGEST ENERGY when PFC Energy recognized First Solar as the ENERGY COMPANY with the biggest growth in stock value for 2007.

    Now the Wall Street Journal recognizes First Solar for having the biggest stock value growth of ANY COMPANY. The First Solar stock value grew 795.2%. No, that’s not a typo. SEVEN HUNDRED AND NINETY FIVE (point two) percent.

    First Solar’s growth was no doubt buoyed by a general boom in New Energy and a specific expansion of impressive proportions in the solar energy industry. Driven by favorable state and federal policies, solar module manufacturers are making and selling their products as fast as their capacities allow.

    When First Solar’s newest plants come on line in 2009, the company will have a one gigawatt/year capacity, 3 times what it can produce now. It is aiming to wholesale modules at $1/watt by 2012, which would put it at price parity with other power sources without subsidies. The price it was producing modules at in late 2007 was calculated at $2.48/watt.

    A caution: While investment in New Energy is expected to continue expanding, First Solar’s growth has been extraordinary and it would be unreasonable to expect any company to sustain it.

    Second caution: Federal Investment Tax Credits (ITCs) will expire at the end of 2008 and so far the U.S. Senate has refused to extend them. Absent such policy support, there may be a contraction in the industry’s growth.

    Learn more about how to support solar energy at
    : WHAT SOLAR NEEDS

    First Solar has taken the business principle of specialization to heart and focused on the newest kind of solar panel material, thin film. (click to enlarge)

    Best 1-Year Performer: First Solar
    Rebecca Smith, February 25, 2008 (Wall Street Journal)

    WHO
    First Solar Inc.; The Wall Street Journal (WSJ); Wedbush Morgan Securities (Al Kaschalk, analyst)

    WHAT
    WSJ recognized First Solar as the company with the single biggest stock growth last year.

    WHEN
    - Stock value when First Solar first went public in late 2006: $20/value.
    - Stock value peak in late December 2007: $283
    - First Solar was founded in 1999.

    Thin film solar is growing so fast the manufacturers are literally selling the panels as fast as they can make them. (click to enlarge)

    WHERE
    - First Solar ranked number one among the 1,000 companies on its Shareholder Scoreboard.
    - First Solar plants: (1) Perrysburg, Ohio – 3 high volume lines, opened in 2003; (2) Frankfurt-Oder, Germany – 4 lines, opened in 2007; (3) Malaysia – 4 unfinished plants, 16 lines, expected to open in 2009.

    WHY
    - $1,000 in First Solar at the end of 2006 = $8,952 at the end of 2007.
    - $1000 in in the Standard & Poor 500 index at the end of 2006 = $1,055 at the end of 2007.
    - First Solar presently has orders for $6 billion in solar modules. That will be most of First Solar’s output capacity through 2012.
    - First Solar revenue quadrupled in 2007. Earnings were 40 times the previous year’s earnings.
    - There are reasons such levels of expansion may be hard to sustain over a longer term. Wedbush Morgan Securities issued a hold rating for the stock in late January.

    Schematic of the First Solar Cadminum Telluride thin film construction. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Rebecca Smith, Wall Street Journal: “Call it a year in the sun.”
    - Al Kaschalk, analyst, Wedbush Morgan on First Solar’s strategy in the marketplace: "They're picking off the edges of the market where they can help [boost the power] grid…"

    EMISSIONS TRADING TO SAVE FORESTS?

    From a recent media report: "Natural variation suggests the Amazon should have serious drought-led fires at 400- to 700-year intervals, but today, they are happening every five to 15 years…It's a vicious cycle: cutting back the forests causes more global warming, which then burns up more forests, which causes more global warming, which burns up the forests even more, and on and on."

    To stop climate change, stop deforestation. To stop deforestation, stop climate change. Enter emissions trading.

    Unfortunately, it has up to now been considered too controversial to incentivize forest protection by allotting credits for not cutting them down. Hylton Murray-Philipson, head, Rainforest Concern: "It's insanity that a single service company, Google, has a market value of $200 billion, while all the services of all of the world's great forests are valued at nothing…"

    Indonesia earns $1 to $5/ton to cut the forests down. It could earn $30/ton if credits were sold for preventing deforestation. It is estimated each ton of emissions does $85 of harm to the world economy. Do the math.

    The fear is that allotting credits for preventing deforestation is too easily abused. The trade could become a target of fraud or put too much developing-world forestland into the hands of developed-world nations.

    Enter the World Bank. Its Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) raised $160 million to cut deforestation 10% by 2010.
    (See Forest Carbon Partnership Facility brochure) But the World Bank's business activities have long financed deforesting industries. And cutting back deforestation means interrupting survival activities of indigenous peoples.

    Pygmies and locals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) claim FCPF interrupts their sustainable practices while the World Bank finances industrial logging.

    80 environmental groups recently put the World Bank on notice: Action is needed. The right kind of action. Business-as-usual is no longer acceptable. The world is watching. Congratulations for the gesture. Get it right or get out of the way.


    click to enlarge

    All About: Forests and Carbon Trading
    Rachel Oliver, February 11, 2008 (CNN)

    WHO
    The World Bank

    WHAT
    World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) organized to finance forest protection.

    This must be stopped. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - FCPF would cut deforestation 10% by 2010.
    - Council of Foreign Relations: U.S. forest fires accounted for 6% of 2007 North American greenhouse gases.
    - WWF: If nothing changes, 60% of all rainforest will be gone by 2030.
    Industrial logging was banned in the DRC in 2002. Since then, 100 new industrial logging projects have been started.

    WHERE
    - 10 billion acres of world forest, 30% of earth’s land. Diminised by 1/3 since the beginning of agriculture.
    - Indonesia and Brazil are among the top emissions-generating countries in the world due to deforestation for mining.
    - FCPF is financed by the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, Japan, France, Switzerland, Denmark and Finland and The Nature Conservancy.

    WHY
    - Deforestation is responsible for 20 to 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Forests inhale CO2 and exhale the oxygen humans breathe. They also store CO2 in the form of organic carbon -- 50% more than is in the atmosphere, according to the United Nations' Environmental Programme (UNEP).
    - 80% of all deforestation is agricultural land clearing, 32 million acres/year.
    - The World Bank raised $160 million in funding to launch FCPF.

    But these people must be considered. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Aim of the World Bank FCPF: "[To] support programs targeting the drivers of deforestation and develop concrete activities to reach out to poor people who depend on forests to improve their livelihoods. It will also help developing countries build the technical, regulatory, and sustainable forestry capacity to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation."
    - Joint statement, 80 world environmental organizations: "[The World Bank seems] to undermine its own climate change mitigation efforts by persisting in funding fossil fuel industries on a global scale and enabling deforestation."

    AWEA’S WETSTONE SPREADS THE WORD AND THE WORD IS WIND

    Gregory Wetstone, who has led the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) through wind energy’s greatest year of growth, describing his tenure: "Nonstop action…"

    As the House takes up a new energy bill which would provide and extend incentives for New Energy, Wetstone points to the Production Tax Credit (PTC) as the most important incentive for the wind energy industry. The current PTC will expire at the end of the year. Wetstone says a long term extension would provide stability and growth in the wind energy industry. The House bill extends it 3 years.

    The PTC allows an income tax credit of two cents/kilowatt hour for wind energy-generated electricity. Since it was first instituted, Congress allowed it to expire 3 times. Each time, wind energy development fell precipitously, slowing the building of the New Energy infrastructure of the future.

    The House bill is expected to hit a wall when it arrives in the Senate. Without Senate approval, the House’s bill cannot become law. The New Energy incentives missed Senatorial approval by 1 vote both in December 2007 and February 2008.

    Wetstone and wind energy advocates are using every bit of leverage they can muster to sway swing Senators. They are flirting with the media, buying up advertising and creating email campaigns. AWEA is planning a lobbying day on Capitol Hill in early March when it will talk up the PTC and 2 longer term industry priorities: (1) A national Renewable Energy Standard (RES) that would require U.S. utilities to obtain a specific percentage of their electricity from New Energy sources by a date certain, and (2) a role for wind energy in the coming climate change legislation.

    The growth of the wind energy industry has brought the cost of electricity generated by wind to parity with traditional sources in some markets and very near parity in most others. And climate change legislation is coming. Even the most recalcitrant, anti-wind Senators know it is coming. It will impose a cost on emissions, which means emissions-free energy like wind will instantly become even more cost competitive. Which is why Wetstone had his troops at a National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners meeting February 20 handing out fact sheets, flyers and lollipops with wrappers that read: "I love wind power."

    Join with AWEA:
    POWER OF WIND

    Wind energy growth is a national phenomenon. Wetstone and AWEA are determined to prevent a few recalcitrant Senators from obstructing it. (click to enlarge)

    Wind Winds Up
    Andrew T. Gillies, February 21, 2008 (Forbes)

    WHO
    Gregory Wetstone, executive director, American Wind Energy Association

    WHAT
    Wetstone predicts the energy bill, with its variety of generous New Energy incentives funded through budget reductions to Old Energy subsidies and tax breaks, will breeze through the House of Representatives only to meet daunting opposition in the Senate.


    AWEA and the wind energy industry have a lot going for them. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - The House bill is expected to bypass the committee process and come to the floor February 27 or thereabout.
    - The House passed a very similar measure in July 2007. The Senate rejected the New Energy provisions and associated financing in December 2007. The Senate also rejected provisions for New Energy incentives when it passed the economic stimulus package in mid-February.
    - The wind energy PTC was first enacted in 1992. It expired in 1999, 2001 and 2003. Wind energy developed dropped dramatically in 2000, 2002 and 2004.
    - The current PTC expires at the end of 2008.

    WHERE
    Wetstone previously worked as a congressional staffer and with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    WHY
    - Wind energy grew 45% in 2007.
    - AWEA has added 109 organizations to its membership in 2008. Total membership is now 1200 organizations.
    - AWEA’s staff grew from 15 to 50 in the last 5 years.
    - AWEA’s annual budget: $15 million. For comparison: American Gas Association (natural gas) - $24.3; American Petroleum Institute - $146 million.
    - AWEA’s leverage: A media friendly to New Energy, a public friendly to New Energy and everything “green” and the fact that the wind energy industry creates jobs and wealth.

    Another advantage of wind energy. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Wetstone, AWEA: "It's a tough time these days to get legislation through…"
    - Wetstone, on advocacy: "Others may have bigger budgets…but there are things we have going for us that you can't buy."
    - Jan Shori, general manager, Sacramento Municipal Utility District ( sixth biggest community-owned U.S. electric utility): "If we end up by 2050 needing to reduce carbon dioxide by 80% from where we were in 1990…then a transformation of the industry is necessary."

    Tuesday, February 26, 2008

    SILICON VALLEY LOBBIES CONGRESS FOR NEW ENERGY

    Federal incentives that would sustain the growth of New Energy will expire at the end of 2008 if Congress does nothing to extend them. These measures will again come before the House on or about February 27 and are expected to fare as well as they did in the 2007 energy bill. They will then move to the Senate, where they are expected to die ignominiously, as they did in the 2007 energy bill.

    Supporters of New Energy all over the country are planning anything and everything they can to break the impasse created by a minority of recalcitrant Senators representing less than half the U.S. population. The sticking point is that Congress would pay for the New Energy incentives by rolling back subsidies and tax breaks for the fossil fuel industries that the NY Times called “…wholly unnecessary…”

    With quarter after quarter of oil and gas industry record profits, it is hard to understand how that industry still requires tax breaks written for it in darker days.

    The Senators’ recalcitrance on New Energy “may” therefore have something to do with one of two things: Either their states rely on fossil fuel industries (coal or oil and gas) or their states have big utilities that rely on fossil fuel industries. In either case, the Senators “may” depend on the fossil fuel industries and big utilities for campaign contributions. Such Senators “may” be strongly influenced by the fossil fuel industries’ Neanderthal attitudes toward New Energy.

    The article below cites efforts by Silicon Valley leaders to talk some sense into the recalcitrant Senators. Unfortunately, it is not reason these Senators are under the influence of.

    Senators Obama and Clinton are entirely behind efforts to extend the New Energy incentives. Senator McCain, who has in the past been a supporter of New Energy when he could, appears in this instance to be hamstrung by the Republican base. An effort to put the incentives into the recent economic stimulus package fell one vote short while Senator McCain avoided coming to the Senate to vote.

    Insiders speculate that if the incentives expire, New Energy development in the U.S. will be put on hold and growth will shift to Europe, Japan and other countries where there are incentives and supportive government policies.


    Effects of the House energy bill. (click to enlarge)

    Extension of tax credits for ‘green’ energy pushed; Incentive Programs Are Due To Expire At End Of Year
    Frank Davies, February 21, 2008 (San Jose Mercury News)

    WHO
    American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE, 500 companies and groups from Google to Silicon Valley “clean tech” players to small New Energy start-ups), Michael Eckhart, president

    WHAT
    ACORE sent a letter to Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders asserting the importance of the investment tax credits (ITCs) and production tax credits (PTCs) for New Energy that will expire without legislative action.

    The American Council of Renewable Energy (ACORE) means business. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    The ITCs and PTCs will expire at the end of 2008 if Congress does not act.
    An energy bill will come to the floor of the House of Representatives on or about February 27 proposing to extend the credits and provide other incentives for New Energy.

    WHERE
    As written in pending House legislation, financing of the tax credits would come from cuts to fossil fuel industry subsidies and tax breaks.

    WHY
    - Letter signatories: William Weihl, green energy "czar," Google; John Geesman, former commissioner, California Energy Commission; John Doerr and John Denniston, partners, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers.
    - The energy bill coming up in the House will extend some tax credits through 2011 and others through 2016. They will incentivize construction of wind, solar and other energy systems, incentivize the purchase of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and efficient appliances and encourage gas stations to install pumps for biofuels.
    - The bill would roll back tax breaks on domestic oil and gas production and on taxes paid by oil and gas companies on foreign production.

    Taking it to the government is one of the key purposes of ACORE. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Michael Eckhart, president, American Council on Renewable Energy: "Lead time and certainty are essential when a business is investing in a renewable system that might not be operating for three years…"
    - David Kopans, director, Fat Spaniel Technologies: "The presidential candidates are speaking about it, and it has become a hot-button issue; that should help us…The investment tax credit is one of the fundamental drivers of our industry…"

    FLORIDA GOV LOVES SUN

    Solar energy opponents repeat the mantra that solar power installations require too much land to ever be cost competitive. Solar energy proponents quietly go on finding more than enough land, like this former landfill in Florida, where solar panels like the ones in the FPL Sunshine Energy Solar Array can go up to nobody’s dissatisfaction. The FPL array, Florida's biggest, went up in early February.

    Florida’s Republican Governor Charlie Crist has the perfect mindset for a solar energy enthusiast. In response to objections about his state’s sun saturation, he replied, “You've got to be kidding me. We are the Sunshine State.”

    Even calmer types than the governor are nonetheless enthusiastic about solar energy in Florida. Jerry Karnas, Florida director, Environmental Defense: "This is a huge day for Florida because this is just the tip of the iceberg…We've got tremendous potential here, not only to be part of the solution, but also to create a whole new economy in the state focused on clean, renewable energy."

    Should Governor Crist be chosen by Senator McCain as a running mate, as rumors suggest, it is charming to think there might next year be solar panels in the D.C. home now occupied by Vice President Cheney.


    click to enlarge

    Crist applauds solar energy panels in Sarasota
    Stacey Eidson, February 12, 2008 (Bradenton Herald)

    WHO
    Florida Gov. Charlie Crist; Florida Power & Light (FPL), Armando Olivera, President, and David Bates, manager, Sunshine Energy program;

    WHAT
    At a dedication of a new Florida Power & Light solar installation, Crist reaffirmed his and the Sunshine State’s commitment to solar energy development.

    FPL's Sunshine Energy program and its commitment to energy efficiency reflect the direction it is going.

    WHEN
    The FPL Sunshine Energy Solar Array was dedicated February 12.

    WHERE
    - FPL's Sunshine Energy Solar Array is at Rothenbach Park in Sarasota County, just east of Interstate 75 at the former Bee Ridge Landfill.
    - FPL already has a second project in construction in South Florida.

    FPL Energy, a division of FPL, built some of the first solar thermal power plants in the world. (click to enlarge)

    WHY
    - Sunshine Energy Solar Array: Largest Fla installation and 2nd largest in the southeast, 1,200 panels, 250 kilowatts, powering 40 average homes
    - The FPL Sunshine Energy program offers FPL customers the opportunity to pay a $9.75 per month premium to support the development of more solar and clean energy facilities.

    Sunshine Energy Solar Array is Florida's first but FPL already has another in the works. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Crist, on the new solar array: "Do you know how many people visited the Sunshine State last year alone? Eighty-five million people visited Florida last year…They don't come here because she is ugly. They come here because she is beautiful. And what we are doing today only continues to create that opportunity going forward."
    - Bates, FPL, on the Sunshine Energy program: "Currently, we have about 37,000 customers that are participating in this program…
    - Crist, on the FPL Sunshine Energy program: "I think the community will participate…It is not very hard to get people to do the right thing, especially when they can reduce their power bill and utilize this great sunshine that we have in the Sunshine State."

    GM EXEC: WARMING IS ‘TOTAL CROCK OF S---‘

    In response to a vigorous Internet assault on him for calling climate change a “total crock of s---“ General Motors Corp Vice Chairman Bob Lutz wrote this: "My thoughts on what has or hasn't been the cause of climate change have nothing to do with the decisions I make to advance the cause of General Motors…"

    In other words, GM’s decision to build the plug-in hybrid electric Chevy Volt or any other “environmentally friendly” vehicle is purely economic. Just like the company’s decision to stick with the Hummer and other SUVs until the company recorded losses and saw a better place to go in the market.

    GM deserves credit for its ahead-of-the-curve initiative. It took on the EV1 when nobody else was doing electric cars. And now it is trying to bring the PHEV Volt to the showroom.

    But Toyota’s current dominance in the hybrid market is not due entirely to the fact that its economists and accountants can add better than those at GM. Toyota execs saw the world a certain way and went to work on the Prius when GM was still selling the Hummer. Can a company whose exec is a climate change denier (long past the time when it is clear what is going on with the climate) bring a climate change-fighting car to market?

    Lutz: “The Chevrolet Volt program is occurring under my personal watch, because I -- and others in senior management -- believe in it. I fully expect that it will revolutionize the automotive industry, and I’m committed to seeing it successfully developed and in showrooms.”

    With this remark, Lutz has single-handedly dramatically lowered expectations for the Volt but wants to blame others for noticing the inherent contradiction of his position. As much as Lutz would like this to be about his readers and the people responding to his remark, it is just as much about Lutz and GM.

    Lutz thinks climate change is a crock but he is passionately committed to the Volt. Just like GM was once committed to the EV1. Until it wasn't. Like Romeo who was so madly in love with Rosaline until he saw Juliet, there is a dissonance that leads straight to tragedy.

    The public can't help but expect the usual shortsighted GM inspiration-followed-by-impatience act if the program is going to be overseen by a shortsighted climate change denier. Those public expectations could feed market performance.

    Lutz opposed Congressional efforts to enact stiffer mileage standards for U.S. vehicles, calling such an idea "…like trying to address the obesity problem in this country by forcing clothing manufacturers to sell smaller, tighter sizes." How did that work out? Last December, that out-of-control radical progressive George W. Bush signed into law a requirement to up fleet mileage 40% by 2020.


    The Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) Volt is a beautiful and exciting idea but GM has not brought it to market yet. (click to enlarge)

    GM exec calls global warming a “crock”
    Kevin Krolicki (w/Toni Reinhold), February 22, 2008 (Reuters)

    WHO
    General Motors Corp Vice Chairman Bob Lutz

    WHAT
    Lutz defended his remark that climate change is a "total crock of s---…" only by distancing GM from the comment, asserting that his opinion would not impact GM’s decision to build the plug-in hybrid electric Chevy Volt.

    The EV1 was once a beautiful and exciting idea but GM fell out of love. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - Lutz’s “Talk about a Crock” post came February 21.
    - Lutz has been in the auto industry 40 years.
    - GM is racing with Toyota to bring the first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) to market.

    WHERE
    Much of this controversy has been taking place at the GM FastLane Blog.

    WHY
    - GM is the largest U.S. automaker by sales and market share.
    - Having failed to see growing impetus in buyer demand for fuel-saving hybrid technology, GM manufactured the Hummer and other SUVs in its product lines to dramatically slowing sales in recent years.
    - GM is currently advertising the Chevy Volt and promises to bring it to market in 2010.

    Will the Volt recharge America? Or will Lutz soon look elsewhere? (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    Lutz, responding to internet attacks on him for his remark: "What [those responding with outrage] should be doing in earnest is forming opinions, not about me but about GM and what this company is doing that is ... hugely beneficial to the causes they so enthusiastically claim to support…"

    Monday, February 25, 2008

    WIND AND OIL MIXING

    Texas rancher describing the hum of wind turbines on his ranch: “That’s just money you’re hearing…” The rancher earns $500/month for each of 78 turbines on his “spread.” He is planning 78 more.

    Famed entrepreneurial Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens: “I have the same feelings about wind…as I had about the best oil field I ever found.”

    Nolan County in Texas generates so much wind that if it were listed among the wind-producing nations of the world it would rank 9th. Land values there have doubled and are expected to increase another 25% this year. Tim Fambrough, Nolan County judge: “Wind reminds us of the old oil and gas booms…”

    Modern windmills are 20 stories high with blades the length of a football field and produce power in even mild winds.

    Wind energy presently generates 1% of U.S. electricity. Skeptical energy authorities see it growing to 5-7% of the nation’s power supply. Industry advocates believe it can supply up to 1/3 of U.S. power by 2030.


    From the NY Times. (click to enlarge)

    Problems: (1) Wind energy in some places still costs more than coal- or gas-generated power; (2) wind energy is intermittent; (3) the hottest days, when electricity demand spikes, are typically not windy; (4) turbines can cause harm to birds and bats; and, (5) there are some complaints about interference to the beauty of the landscape.

    Solutions: (1) Growing volume and the increasing cost of greenhouse gas emissions has made wind cost competitive in many markets and that trend will continue; (2) a recent study showed that linking 19 wind farms over a 500-square-mile area essentially negates intermittency and a variety of wind energy storage systems are emerging; (3) careful siting and structural and technical improvements are keeping harm to birds and bats below that caused by neighborhood cats or tall buildings; and, (4) careful siting and cooperation with environmental groups is keeping aesthetic complaints to a minimum while wind energy advocates regularly remind the complaining minority that the elegant turbines are infinitely preferable to the degradations of mountaintop removal coal mining or the ravages of climate change.

    Jerry Patterson, Texas land commissioner, responsible for identifying Texas wind sites: “Texas has been looking at oil and gas rigs for 100 years, and frankly, wind turbines look a little nicer…We’re No. 1 in wind in the United States, and that will never change.”

    Wrench in the works: The federal production tax credit (PTC) incentivizing wind development will expire at the end of 2008 and a recalcitrant minority in the Senate is blocking its extension.

    Long term challenge: New transmission is needed to get the electricity from the wind farms to the the grid.


    Move Over, Oil, There’s Money in Texas Wind
    Clifford Krauss, February 23, 2008 (NY Times)

    WHO
    Famed Texas oil entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens; Robert Gramlich, policy director, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA); the Texas Public Utility Commission (TPUC)

    The Texas panhandle has become one of the busiest wind energy production centers in the world. (click to enlarge)

    WHAT
    Texas, once synonymous with oil, now leads the country in wind energy production and continues to grow wind.

    WHEN
    - The Texas wind energy boom has been largely in the last 3 years. It bypassed California and became number 1 in the U.S. in 2006.
    - Wind energy grew 45% in 2007. It is expected to grow as much in 2008.
    - A recent study projects investment of $65 billion in wind energy between 2007 and 2015.
    July 2007: TPUC approved transmission lines for up to 25,000 megawatts of wind energy by 2012.

    WHERE
    - Wind farms are being built on cattle ranches and in old oil fields.
    - The U.S. recently overtook Spain and became 2nd in the world to Germany in wind energy capacity.
    - Texas is 1st in wind, California 2nd, Minnesota 3rd, Iowa 4th. Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado and Oregon get 5-8% of their power from wind.
    - 2/3 of wind in Texas is owned by foreign companies like Iberdrola of Spain, Energias de Portugal and Windkraft Nord of Germany.
    - The best U.S. wind is in rural areas of the central corridor from the Dakotas to Texas while the need for electricity is in the cities.

    Texas' independent grid system makes new transmission easier to develop. (click to enlarge)

    WHY
    - Texas now generates 2% of its electricity from wind energy.
    - Texas has a perfect wind energy development environment: Good wind, few regulations, lots of private farm and ranch lands, fast-growing cities and big money.
    - Texas’ independent grid makes it easier development new wind and new transmission.
    - The TPUC-approved new transmission is expected to drive national wind energy development.
    - Shell and the TXU Corporation are planning a 3,000-megawatt wind farm in the Texas panhandle, the biggest in the world.
    - Pickens is planning a 4,000-megawatt $10 billion installation in the Panhandle.

    The Texas landscape is wind energy-sized. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Patrick Woodson, senior development executive, German utility and Texas wind developer E.On: “Texas could be a model for the entire nation…”
    - Gramlich, policy director, AWEA: “We need a national vision for transmission like we have with the national highway system…We have to get over the hump of having a patchwork of electric utility fiefdoms.”
    - Pickens: “I like wind because it’s renewable and it’s clean and you know you are not going to be dealing with a production decline curve…Decline curves finally wore me out in the oil business.”
    - Bobby Clark, wind technician, General Electric: “I mean, even the worst days for wind [in Nolan County] don’t compare to the busts in the oil business…I saw my daddy go from rags to riches and back in the oil business, and I sleep better.”
    - Marty Foust, owner, Dandy’s Western Wear (Sweetwater, Nolan County): “Wind has invigorated our business like you wouldn’t believe…When you watch the news you can get depressed about the economy, but we don’t get depressed. We’re now in our own bubble.”

    ON BEHALF OF WIND ENERGY: BREE RAUM

    Near the close of a recent wind energy industry workshop, the moderator told the the talk-weary audience the next presentation would be about grassroots activism and congressional politics. As an attractive 20-something woman stepped to the podium, eyes glazed over – until her first slide appeared. “Who knows who this is?” she asked. It was a picture of a pop singer.

    “Beyonce!” was heard around the room. And the wind energy industry’s youthful professionals perked up.

    “And who knows who this is?” the serious young woman at the podium asked as her second slide – a wizened, bespeckled man in a tie – appeared.

    The room remained silent a few moments before somebody finally said, “Reid. Harry Reid.”

    Bree Raum smiled. “Very good,” she told her audience. And the audience WAS now hers. “64% of Americans can identify Beyonce. 15% recognize Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader.”


    click to enlarge

    That’s the challenge in Raum’s world. She proceeded to outline the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)’s efforts to get vital incentives through the Senate and how her audience could help. By the time she was finished, she had a lot of people more interested in congressional machinations than they had ever been before.

    Who is that woman?

    “I get a lot of response, I get a lot of questions,” Bree Raum recently told NewEnergyNews about her workshop presentation. Even a short conversation with her makes it eminently clear she is very interested in politics but passionate about the politics of wind energy. “I end up explaining that there are a lot of reasons why this is tough and it has nothing to do with the fact that your member of congress does not like wind.”

    Raum is completely engaged in the fight to get wind energy’s production tax credit (PTC) extended. If Congress does not pass an extension, the tax credit will expire at the end of 2008. With the PTC will probably go significant investment in America’s fastest growing source of electricity generation. Investors will hold their cards, awaiting a more favorable political climate. Projects will be put on hold. Jobs will be lost. Development of America’s 21st Century energy infrastructure will be slowed and its capacity to generate clean electricity will be further delayed. The country’s readiness to compete in a world confronting climate change will be further degraded. Raum is working hard to prevent all this.

    Raum was hired by AWEA to create an advocacy campaign. “They brought me on to kind of create my own grass roots program. That’s one of the things that I love about the job, not only that I was getting into a great industry but also that I could create something that was mine… I could do whatever I wanted with it.”


    Green=both Senators voted for New Energy, Gray=one senator, Red=neither senator. Raum's challenge is simple: Turn more of these states green. (click to enlarge)

    Bree made her bones, fresh out of college, with the National Propane Gas Association. “I learned a lot about the energy industry and I learned a lot about the gas industry,” she said of her time there. But the staid propane industry lost its challenge. Not so, the wind energy industry: “The industry’s growing so fast its hard to keep up with contacts and getting people involved. When I got here I think we had 600 members and now we have 1200 so we’ve doubled in just a matter of 2 years.”

    She has created a program designed “…to engage the industry in the political arena because we rely so heavily on Congress’s decisions…that is going to have a profound effect on our industry so I try to engage them in, one, at least being aware of what’s going on but, two, to get them actively involved…”

    Anybody on the AWEA email list is familiar with the Action Alerts. “If I have your email, you’re going to get an Action Alert…That’s Level One.”


    Ready for a political primer?

    click to enlarge

    Call this next section “Bree Raum’s guide to having political impact.”

    The next level of advocacy is the actual 4-part program. She calls it “opt-in” because she is interested in drawing in people who will respond and be proactive, people who “…when I call them and ask them to set up a district meeting or host a congressional tour, they’re going to do it.”

    Part 1 of the program, congressional tours, encourages wind energy producers and manufacturers to get Senators and Representatives out on the wind farms and into the plants. Raum and AWEA will even provide the invitations. She recommends the invitations be open-ended because politicians’ schedules are so crowded and a visit is so potentially awareness-raising. “A member of congress visiting your facility is by far the best thing that you can do,” Raum says. “It shows there are jobs in their district, it shows you’re politically engaged, it shows that they have noticed you and they might actually do something for you.”

    Raum mentioned in passing that politicians especially love to be photographed beside a wind turbine on Earth Day. Earth Day is April 22 this year.

    Part 2 of the program is to remind wind energy business owners to always invite Senators, Representatives and District staff to all project dedications. Such occasions are great photo-ops for the political players and great opportunities for wind energy builders to demonstrate they are engaged politically. “If you’re going to have a party,” Raum says, “you want to make sure you invite everybody.”

    Part 3 is what Raum calls her “8 minute activist program.” AWEA has created a set of cards for members. Some are scripted prompts for what to say to elected officials on policy issues, either in person, in phone contacts, in letters or in email contacts. Others are actual postcards ready for mailing. Each has a specific targeted audience. None requires more than 8 minutes of the targeted person or messenger. Raum never forgets that 4 times as many Americans are interested in listening to Beyonce than in listening to the Senate Majority Leader.


    To assist wind industry advocates face the intimidating experience of talking to elected representatives, Raum has developed a variety of prompt cards. (click to enlarge)

    Part 4 is district meetings: “All members of Congress have district offices and it’s so important to meet those staff members out there,” Raum explains. “When you do that, when you go to a district and say, ‘I want a long term PTC extension,’ it echoes what AWEA is doing in Washington. They’re not just hearing it from the hired Washington lobbyist, they’re hearing it from the Washington lobbyist and the state and that is just fundamentally necessary.”

    WindPAC

    The other program Raum manages at AWEA is the Association’s Political Action Committee (PAC). The PAC receives financial donations to the cause of wind energy and channels the funds to support the campaigns to elected officials who support wind energy. “A way to make sure your friends are reelected,” Raum calls it.

    Fund raising is probably the toughest part of politics. How is Raum doing with it? “When I came on board 2 years ago, the best year we had was $27,000…This year we almost reached $80,000. And we hope to grow even more.”


    Looking Ahead

    Raum briefly described the PTCs in the energy bill she expects the House of Representatives to pass soon after bringing it to the floor February 27. It is likely to be a 3-year extension, allowing a full value credit in 2009 and credits for up to 35% of the project value for 2010-11. As with the 2007 energy bill, the cost of the PTCs and other New Energy incentives will be offset by shifting incentives and subsidies away from the fossil fuels industries. As with the 2007 energy bill, this is not likely to fly in the upper house. “The problem is obviously the Senate,” Raum said.

    Insiders have confided to NewEnergyNews that the prospect of getting New Energy incentives through the Senate this year is not promising. Bree Raum is undaunted. She alluded to possible ways to fund the incentives that could win Senatorial opponents’ favor and excitedly pointed out there are prospects for even better things from the next Congress under a new administration. Her exuberance and engagement are utterly contagious.


    WHO
    Bree Raum, Manger of Grassroots Advocacy and WindPAC, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)

    WHAT
    Raum talked about AWEA’s efforts to get its members and supporters involved in the fight to pass vital tax credits necessary to incentivize the wind enrgy industry’s continued expansion.

    Want to get Raum's Action Alerts? Contact AWEA and get on their email list. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    - Raum spoke to a wind energy siting workshop February 15 and had a private chat with NewEnergyNews February 21.
    - The House of Representatives is expected to again pass an energy bill with excellent incentives for New Energy February 27 or shortly thereafter. The fight will be, as it was last year and earlier this year, when the bill comes before the Senate.

    WHERE
    - Raum and AWEA are based in Washington, D.C.
    - The workshop at which Raum spoke was in Austin, TX.

    WHY
    - Raum is completely engaged in getting the word out about the ongoing fight for New Energy incentives.
    - As Manager of Grass Roots Advocacy, Raum has developed a far-reaching “Action Alert” email system and a 4-part program to get wind energy professionals and supporters more involved.
    - As Manager of WindPAC, she is vigorously engaged in the hardcore activism of political fund raising.

    QUOTES
    - Raum: “If I have your email, you’re going to get an Action Alert…”
    - Raum: “The Grassroots Program is really designed to engage the industry in the political arena because we rely so heavily on Congress’s decisions…that is going to have a profound effect on our industry so I try to engage them in, one, at least being aware of what’s going on but, two, to get them actively involved…”

    *