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

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.



  • Weekend Video: The Economic Opportunity In The Climate Fight
  • Weekend Video: The Future Of Energy
  • Weekend Video: Advances In BioEnergy
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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


    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 ( 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


    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



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  • ---------------
  • Wednesday, February 25, 2009


    The rage for new transmission goes on even as the controversy over the need for new transmission rages.

    Many of the biggest names in New Energy advocacy (including former President Bill Clinton, Former Vice President and Nobel laureate Al Gore, Nobel laureate and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, energy entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Executive Director Denise Bode and Former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta) gathered at a
    Center for American Progress (Cap) Action Fund forum to call for the development and deployment of a new national high voltage transmission grid to facilitate the delivery of electricity generated by New Energy in remote, unpopulated areas to urban population centers.

    click to enlarge

    Secretary Chu: "We need to move with a sense of urgency…We need a very, very smart grid…"

    Secretary Chu called for consistent policies and universal standards so that entrepreneurs can understand the rules of the marketplace.

    Former President Clinton’s remarks were typically wide-ranging and penetrating. He talked about the national security value of a reliable and secure smart grid and pointed out that modernizing the national transmission system would facilitate the move to domestic energy supplies and boost the economy.

    President Clinton: "We know this is the key to our job growth."

    Mr. Gore emphasized the urgency of ending the on-again, off-again U.S. affair with New Energy and making a commitment to new transmission infrastructure as part of the nation's responsibility in the fight against climate change.

    Vice President Gore: "This roller coaster is headed for a crash, and we're in the front car…"

    Speaker Pelosi's remarks echoed Mr. Gore's and she expressed her determination to see legislation for new national transmission through Congress.

    Speaker Pelosi: "…[T]he status quo folks will try to stop this [but]… It is our moral responsibility to preserve this planet…"

    Energy entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens talked about the terrible costs to the U.S. of oil dependency and urged the New Energy transmission project as well as the building of New Energy infrastructure and the retrofitting of homes and buildings to boost energy efficiency. Liberal Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey said that to his own surprise he agreed with everything Pickens, a conservative Texan, said.

    Podesta, who as a principal at CAP was one of the conveners of the forum, said a national Green Grid is vital.

    Podesta: "These are national problems; they require national solutions."

    click to enlarge

    Senator Reid reminded the gathering of the success of the federal government in creating rural electrification, the national highway system, and the Internet.

    Reid: "Everyone should get off the kick that this program won't work if the government is involved in it…"

    According to a Christian Science Monitor reporter, Jeffrey Nelson, President of the South Dakota Wind Energy Association, is all for such a national transmission project.

    Nelson: “This state has vast resources it can’t use without building new power lines…These high-voltage lines are like farm-to-market roads, but instead of wheat, it’s electricity being transported. We need to think in those terms.”

    click to enlarge

    Joint Coordinated System Plan 2008 (JCSP), a new report on transmission in the Eastern Interconnect section of today's grid, spells out parameters and costs for the eastern half of a new system. New transmission advocates welcome the $80 billion cost and unanimously argue the improvements will pay for themselves by creating downward price pressure on electricty from competition between power generators.

    click to enlarge

    But not everybody likes the idea of new transmission. Objections come from activists and environmentalists who resent the aesthetic and wildlife habitat intrusions. They also come from veterans in the struggle against coal who believe new transmission will not be used for New Energy but will facilitate the increased delivery of “black electrons” generated by coal-fired power plants.

    ITC Holding wants to build the
    Green Power Express, a $12 billion, 3,000 mile project for Nelson’s wind. Coincidentally, it passes by numerous major coal plants. Reassurances to environmentalists from the project developers are not exactly reassuring.

    Lisa Aragon, director of strategic initiatives, ITC: “The purpose of our plan is to build the infrastructure to where the wind blows most abundantly…As an independent transmission company, we can’t favor one type of energy over another. We do favor harnessing the wind for both environmental sustainability and energy security reasons.”

    Environmentalists call it the “Green-wash Express.”

    Paula Maccabee, counsel, Citizens Energy Task Force: “There’s no regulatory jurisdiction over this ‘green-power’ power line, not even a fig leaf that would require it to carry wind power…It’s name is just a public relations slogan.”

    Held in even more contempt that the Green Power Express is
    CapX 2020, a joint venture transmission project of 11 Minnesota utilities. Purportedly designed to bring Dakota wind to Minnesota, it will also admittedly carry coal-generated electricity from South Dakota’s Big Stone II coal plant. (See No CapX)

    click to enlarge

    Here’s the question: Can the promise of the President's proposed Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) - to get 10% of U.S. power from New Energy by 2012 and 25% by 2025 - be fulfilled without new transmission?

    The opponents of the "green" grids who fear they will carry "black" electrons say the answer is more local New Energy, more distributed generation, a smarter grid and more energy efficiency.

    Jeremy Chipps, Minnesota enviromentalist: “It really is time to deploy energy production and smart-grid systems that are much safer, more intelligent, and much more efficient…If we do this, we won’t need massive, costly networks of new transmission lines.”

    A similar point is made by opponents who do not readily believe the argument that new transmission will pay for itself.

    Dusty Johnson, chairman, South Dakota Public Utility Commission: “To what extent do [rate-payers] have an appetite for increasing utility bills? … There are some very significant geopolitical concerns when people start talking about multibillion [dollar] transmission projects…If it ends up being more cost effective for everyone to have small wind turbines in their backyard and solar panels on their roads, do we need these lines? … I think we do. But such investments are not without risk.”

    Other experts, including system operators, have raised questions about the financial and technical viability of a major system and expressed preference for local improvements, better efficiencies and distributed generation.

    Gordon van Welie, ISO New England, and Stephen Whitley, president, New York Independent System Operator: “Until additional scenarios that include the development of local resources are analyzed, we do not believe any single transmission plan can be presented as a solution to the integration of additional renewable energy resources in the United States…”

    If there is to be a national transmission system, the Not-In-My-BackYard (NIMBY) objections must be overcome. Many in the energy and transmission planning communities and many on the CAP panel believe the solution must come from a federal siting policy managed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that streamlines the permitting process now in the hands of state regulators.

    Aragon, ITC: “We’re advocating a streamlined process…In many states there is no defined time for how long siting can go on…If siting can’t be completed in the current [state] model, we may need to move to a federal siting process.”

    click to enlarge

    There are, of course, those who will not tolerate federal interference in state matters. This would be a good place all that Obama non-partisanship to ride to the rescue and settle contentions.

    John Lamb, president, Clipper Windpower Development: “It will be critical for the federal and state government to provide some form of expedited regulatory approval, additional financial incentives and tax relief for new interstate transmission projects…”

    It will not be as easy as all that, but Carol Browner, White House energy and climate coordinator, recently expressed approval for such an inter-agency siting group. There is a good reason to do the work.

    Dusty Johnson, chairman, South Dakota Public Utility Commission: “We need a lot more transmission…It’s hard in Washington to divvy up money according to merit and not politics. But if they do it on merit, South Dakota is going to do very well. We’ve got the wind.”

    California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of New Energy’s biggest boosters, wants to get out ahead of the process by streamlining the permitting process for transmission and New Energy installations in his state (KulleeFORneeya).

    Presently involving nine different agencies, Governor Schwarzenegger wants a single state Department of Energy to handle the process. Why? Because whereas most states take 5-to-7 years to build new transmission, California takes 10-to-12 years. Why? Because of bureaucratic red tape and lawsuits.

    click to enlarge

    Lisa Page, spokeswoman for Governor Schwarzenegger: "The goal is to help California focus on energy stability and to ensure coordination across agencies…We have a very aggressive goal of 33 percent renewables by 2020 and reducing greenhouse gases, so given those aggressive goals, this will help streamline projects so we can get more renewable energy."

    That's the news from the cutting edge. Stay tuned - there is sure to be more to come over the wires.

    (For another extended discussion of the pros and cons of new transmission, see DOES BIG NEW ENERGY NEED BIG NEW TRANSMISSION?)

    click to enlarge

    America’s future wind web? Wind power could feed 20 percent of the US energy diet. But first, the country needs a new energy network
    Mark Clayton, February 18, 2009 (Christian Science Monitor)
    Calif. governor proposes one-stop permitting for electricity transmission
    Debra Kahn, February 24, 2009 (NY Times)
    Nation's leaders urge action on better electricity grid
    February 23, 2009 (CNN)

    Former President Bill Clinton, Former Vice President and Nobel laureate Al Gore, Nobel laureate and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, energy entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Executive Director Denise Bode, Former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta; Bracken Hendricks, author, Wired For Progress; the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) (John Bear, President); Jeffrey Nelson, President, South Dakota Wind Energy Association (SDWEA); Dusty Johnson, chairman, South Dakota Public Utility Commission; Lisa Aragon, director of strategic initiatives, ITC; Paula Maccabee, counsel, Citizens Energy Task Force; Gordon van Welie, ISO New England and Stephen Whitley, president, New York Independent System Operator; John Lamb, president, Clipper Windpower Development; California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

    Wired For Progress and Joint Coordinated System Plan 2008 (JCSP) are 2 of many proposals for the new transmission system New Energy and Smart Grid technologies require.

    click to enlarge

    - The JCSP was released February 14.
    - The Green Power Express was announced February 9.
    - President Obama has repeatedly asserted he wants to double U.S. New Energy capacity in the next 3 years.
    - 2004: Governor Schwarzenegger first proposed the 1-stop permitting Department of Energy agency.

    click to enlarge

    - Wind resources are abundant on the Midwestern plains, solar energy is most abundant in the Southwestern deserts, offshore wind is most harvestable on the Great Lakes and off the Middle Atlantic coasts, wave energy is most abundant off the Pacific coast and current energy is plentiful in the Gulf Stream off Florida.
    - Wind resources from Canada to nearby New England cities could obviate the need for transmission to deliver it from U.S. sources farther away.
    - Boulder, CO, won praise from Secretary Chu for making expenditures to develop the first U.S. smart grid in spite of the absence of national standards and established long-term policies.
    - The Dakotas are frequently called the “Saudi Arabia of wind.”
    - ITC Holdings is based in Novi, Mich.

    click to enlarge

    - Secretary Chu believes entrepreneurs will invest in new transmission systems when they know there are consistent policies and specific standards in place.
    - The JCSP is estimated to entail 15,000 miles of lines and a cost of $80 billion.
    - The Green Power Express is an ITC Holdings-proposed 3,000 mile, $12 billion transmission plan.
    - Plans call for the Titan Wind Project to have 2,000 wind turbines and generate 5,000 megawatts. The Green Power Express would theoretically carry the power it produces.
    - The stimulus package directs $4 billion for Smart Grid planning and development.
    - CapX is a joint project from 11 different Minnesota utilities which claims to be intended to bring Dakota wind to Minnesota’s cities but will also carry coal-generated power.
    - Siting processes slow transmission development.
    - The Sunrise Powerlink that will deliver solar energy-generated electricity from the California desert to the San Diego Bay area was first proposed in 2001, was recently approved and will not be built before 2012.
    - One of the few known principles of the 1-stop permitting plan would be to eliminate Public Utilities Commission authority over transmission siting and renewable power projects over 50 megawatts.
    - Agencies Schwarzenegger wants to eliminate from the permitting process: California Lands Commission, California Energy Commission, the California Power Authority, the Electricity Oversight Board, the California Energy Resources Scheduling Division, the Department of General Services, the Office of Planning and Research and the Office of the State Architect.

    click to enlarge

    - Chu: "What we really need is to lock these people up in a room and say, 'Come out with a standard in a few weeks.' "
    - Clinton: "Every time oil dropped, people said, 'Gimme my Hummer back,'…That's not what they're saying now. "
    - Pickens: "We have got to solve the problem with our own resources."
    - Podesta: "We can't let this crisis go to waste…"
    - John Bear, President, MISO: “This is information we believe that our leaders need to consider as they begin work under a new administration and start defining our energy future…”
    - Paul Thayer, executive director, State Lands Commission: "We haven't been consulted or have any idea what's going to happen…"
    - Schwarzenegger: "At a time when California families and businesses are cutting back and tightening their belts, state government must do the same -- we have a responsibility to ensure government is working efficiently with taxpayer dollars…"


    At 1:54 PM, Blogger BeyondGreen said...

    There could be no better investment in America than to invest in America becoming energy independent! We need to utilize everything in out power to reduce our dependence on foreign oil including using our own natural resources. Create cheap clean energy, new badly needed green jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The high cost of fuel this past year seriously damaged our economy and society. The cost of fuel effects every facet of consumer goods from production to shipping costs. After a brief reprieve gas is inching back up. OPEC will continue to cut production until they achieve their desired 80-100. per barrel. If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. There is a really good new book out by Jeff Wilson called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence Now. No one single factor affects our economy more or trickles down further than the high cost of fuel. This past year the high cost of fuel did serious damage to our economy and society. We shouldn't allow other countries to have that much control over our economy. We need to become a nation that is totally energy independent.


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