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.
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.
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.
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.
Peter Sinclair explains the meaning of the disappearance of permanent artic ice. These are the same images Al Gore used to explain the same subject to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week. From greenman 3610 via YouTube.
Engineers and financiers dancing together? That doesn’t happen often. Usually they're at each others' throats. Engineers: "We need more money!" Financiers: "Design it better!"
Not about transmission.
Will Kaul, President, WIRES: “After a quarter century of declining transmission investment, growing demand for electricity and expanding power markets, the country needs substantial transmission investment…President Obama’s commitment to grid modernization is a powerful signal of the central importance of transmission to our clean energy future…”
The Financial Times endorsement was even more enthusiastic: “A smart grid would be a national asset comparable to the interstate highways launched by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s. It would make possible a huge increase in the use of renewable energy in the US, connecting up vast wind farms in South Dakota or solar arrays in New Mexico to the centres of population on the coasts. It would enable the network to manage the intermittency that is inherent to wind and solar power, balancing supply and demand when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine. It would also cut the losses caused by transmitting electricity, and make the network more resilient to equipment failure, preventing blackouts.”
Engineers and financiers, more wires and smart wires, people transport and electron transport. Maybe there really is a new spirit of cooperation in Washington, D.C.
The downside: WIRES’ engineers say the $11 billion allotted in the stimulus package passed by the U.S. House of Representatives January 28 is little more than a good start on the kind of system described by the Financial Times.
The upside: The stimulus bill is just the beginning for New Energy. An energy bill is coming later in the year to build on it. Among the many provisions to be fought out in that legislation will be full funding for a modern transmission system of 765 kV wires managed with sophisticated information technology and extending from the sources of power generation to the end users.
Aside: Also expected in the energy bill later this year – over which there will likely be one fine political donnybrook – are (1) a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) requiring U.S. utilities to obtain a specific portion of their power by a date certain (probably 10% by 2012 and 25% by 2025) and (2) climate change legislation putting the U.S. on track to cut its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050 through a mandated cap-and-trade system.
Trials suggest “smart” transmission can make more use of New Energy sources from both large project generation (i.e., solar power plants, wind installations, hydrokinetic installations) and distributed generation (i.e., rooftop solar panels, small wind turbines, home geothermal systems) and cut 10-to-15% from the the $400 billion/year U.S. electricity bill. That is at least $40 billion/year in cost savings. A “smart” grid would therefore pay for itself in no more than 25 years.
A smart grid uses computer technology to manage the flow of transmission, integrating supplies and demands. It works with smart meters at the sites of consumption (homes and businesses) that monitor energy use and assist consumers in making more efficient choices.
Building more New Energy (large project generation and distributed generation) is a challenging but much simpler undertaking than expanding and renovating the transmission system to deliver it. Yet, in the absence of these improvements, New Energy cannot achieve its full potential. More importantly, without new transmission there may very well be interruptions of vital power supplies in the foreseeable future.
Vic Abate, head of renewable energy, General Electric Co.: "Our customers are telling us that they're already seeing transmission bottlenecks with their future plans…"
There are 2 key obstacles to the building of new transmission. The first is cost. Once estimated at $1 million per mile, a recent California project ran to $16.5 million per mile. Over the breadth of the U.S., that’s big money. Such investment requires timely return. That cannot happen because of the second obstacle, regulatory complexity. Projects must be integrated into an existing web of wires as well as approved by a vast array of environmental overseers.
Jim Hoecker, former Chairman, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission(FERC)/ legal counsel, WIRES: “There are significant regulatory and operational barriers to entry…We have yet to figure out how to better plan, site, integrate and pay for major expansions and upgrades to the high-voltage system...Congress must focus on addressing today’s unnecessarily complicated and protracted regulatory processes.”
The permitting process has been known to delay transmission projects a decade.
Lew Milford, Clean Energy States Alliance, on regulatory obstacles to new transmission: "It's one of those tricky good-versus-good problems -- trying to move more renewable energy but in an environmentally friendly way."
Perfect example: The U.S. Forest Service.
Robert Mitchell, chief executive, Trans-Elect: "If you are the chief forester and it is your responsibility to protect forest, probably the last thing you want to happen is to have transmission lines built through the forest…"
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose advocacy for New Energy brought him into the struggle for new transmission, recently wrote to President Obama, asking for "… clear policy within the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies to prioritize renewable energy project development and transmission on federal lands."
Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, who wants new transmission so his state can deliver its enormous wind energy resource to population centers in the southwest, also wrote to the new President: "For several years, transmission has been the recognized bottleneck…"
In conjunction with the benefits for new transmission included in the stimulus package, Governor Freudenthal pointed out something else: "There have been no incentives for the guys who want to take the transmission risk…Maybe the federal government has to step in ... to provide that help so that lines get built…"
It would appear that the engineers, the financiers and the new President agree with the Wyoming and California Governors. The question remaining: Do enough Republican Senators agree?
WHO WIRES (Working Group for Investment in Reliable and Economic Electric Systems) (Will Kaul, President); EESI (Environmental and Energy Study Institute); Jim Hoecker, former Chairman, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission(FERC)/ legal counsel, WIRES; California Energy Commission (CEC); California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal; President Barack Obama; Secretary of Energy Steven Chu
WHAT WIRES, EESI and the Financial Times of London all endorsed the aspects of President Obama’s economic stimulus package aimed at transforming U.S. power transmission.
WHEN - WIRES says there are few ‘shovel-ready’ transmission infrastructure projects that will create jobs tomorrow because financing and regulatory obstacles delay transmission development up to a decade. - Rural electrification was one of the great and enduring achievements of President Roosevelt’s 1930s New Deal. The recession of the early 21st century offers President Obama the opportunity to update it.
WHERE - New transmission is needed to span the U.S. just as the EU is planning for a "Supergrid" to span Europeand the Mediterranean. - California’s Sunrise Powerlink, a $1.9 billion, 120-mile long, 1,000-megawatt power line from the inland Imperial Valley to the San Diego Bay area planned by Sempra Energy, was recently approved by the CEC and awaits approval by the U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies. - Wyoming has even bigger transmission ambitions awaiting federal approvals streamlining.
WHY - The Obama stimulus plan passed by the House of Representatives January 28 allots $11+ billion for new, smart transmission. - Obstacles to new transmission: (1) Cost; (2) Regulatory complexities. - The purpose of a “smart”grid is the management instead of the mere transmission of electricity. Computer intelligence follows the use of electricity in 2 ways: (1) Supply and demand is managed between the sources of power generation and the grid, and (2) Consumption is managed between the grid and the end-users. - According to newly–appointed Obama Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics, the cost for a U.S. “smart” grid is estimated to be $1 trillion. A “smart” girid should save 10% of the $400 billion/year in electricity consumed. That is $40 billion. A “smart” grid would therefore pay for itself in 25 years. - In some places in the U.S., new transmission will cost as much as $16.5 million a mile. - T. Boone Pickens' Pickens Plan estimates the cost for the new transmission needed to generate 22% of U.S. from wind at $70 billion. - Among the agencies with permitting/regulatory control over new transmission are those that manage natural resources, wildlife, parks and native populations.
QUOTES - Will Kaul, President, WIRES: “WIRES strongly endorses the steps being considered by Congress and the Obama Administration in this area…But this $11 billion represents just a small fraction of what is needed to build a 21st century transmission system. It will take a major infusion of private as well as government capital to do the job…” - Jim Hoecker, former Chairman, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission(FERC)/ legal counsel, WIRES: “...Right now, the average lead time for transmission development will effectively delay the advent of the green energy economy for up to a decade or more...” - George Given, head, Wood Mackenzie global power unit: "[New transmission is] all over the map…If you're building over Texas, which is relatively flat ... you don't have so many issues. But if you're building in mountains, it's monumentally different work." - Rich Halvey, energy program director, Western Governors Association: "Nevada is, what, 90 percent federally owned? We're continually stymied because of how long it takes to get transmission projects approved and built."
"…The wind industry now employs more people than coal mining in the United States. Wind industry jobs jumped to 85,000 in 2008, a 70% increase from the previous year…In contrast, the coal industry employs about 81,000 workers…coal employment has remained steady in recent years though it’s down by nearly 50% since 1986…Wind industry employment includes 13,000 manufacturing jobs concentrated in regions of the country hard hit by the deindustrialization of the past two decades.
"The big spike in wind jobs was a result of a record-setting 50% increase in installed wind capacity, with 8,358 megawatts coming online in 2008… a third of the nation’s total 25,170 megawatts of wind power generation. Wind farms generating more than 4,000 megawatts of electricity were completed in the last three months of 2008 alone."
"Another sign that wind power is no longer a niche green energy play: Wind accounted for 42% of all new electricity generation installed last year in the U.S. Power, literally, is shifting from the east to west, to the wind belt of the Midwest, west Texas and the West Coast. Texas continues to lead the country, with 7,116 megawatts of wind capacity but Iowa in 2008 overtook California for the No. 2 spot, with 2,790 megawatts of wind generation. Other new wind powers include Oregon, Minnesota, Colorado and Washington state.
"But last year’s record is unlikely to be repeated in 2009…The Obama administration’s $825 billion stimulus package includes a three-year extension of a key production tax credit that has spurred the wind industry’s expansion. But given the dearth of investors with tax liabilities willing to invest in wind projects in exchange for the credits, the stimulus is unlikely to be stimulating to the industry unless the tax credit is made refundable to developers…
"The U.S. wind industry is dominated by European wind developers and turbine makers - General Electric (GE) and Clipper are the only two domestic turbine manufacturers - and those companies’ fortunes rise and fall with the global economy. As the U.S. market has boomed, European companies have been moving production close to their customers - the percentage of domestically manufactured wind turbine components rose from 30% to 50% between 2005 and 2008…"
"Xtreme Green Products, Inc. (XGP), an eco-vehicle company specializing in the development of electric and environmentally friendly land and personal watercraft, has announced today that it has received a signed letter of intent from Findlay Automotive Group to establish Xtreme Green Products dealerships throughout Arizona, Utah and Nevada…"
"Xtreme Green Products is currently marketing its X Rider electric motorcycle and its line of Xtreme Green electric motor scooters. The X Rider can travel at speeds up to 65mph with a range of 95 miles on a single charge. The Xtreme Green electric motor scooter line includes two models, both of which can travel at speeds up to 50mph. The EM40 scooter has a range of 50 miles and the more powerful EM60 scooter has a range of 75 miles. The agreement with Findlay Automotive Group provides exclusive marketing and distribution rights for both the X Rider motorcycle and the motor scooters in Las Vegas, Nevada, Northern Arizona, and St. George, Utah…"
"Coal supporters have managed to tuck more than $4.6 billion in money for the industry into a Senate version of the economic stimulus package…with several coal projects pushed by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va…The Senate funding is nearly double the $2.6 billion included in a current House version of the legislation, meant to help boost the sagging economy across the country.
"Details… outlined in a Byrd news release…$2 billion for "near-zero emissions" power plants designed to capture and sequester carbon dioxide…$1 billion for the Department of Energy's Clean Coal Power Initiative…$1.6 billion for carbon capture at industrial plants…"
"Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has also been working behind the scenes to get as much money as possible into the stimulus package for what supporters call "clean coal" programs.
"Last year, Rockefeller managed to get $2.8 billion for the coal industry into the massive Wall Street bailout…aimed at encouraging power producers to limit greenhouse gas emissions…[and] to promote turning coal into liquid fuel, a move that could double greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle fuels.
"During his campaign, President Barack Obama promised to invest $150 billion over 10 years on a variety of energy programs, and to launch public/private partnerships to build five commercial-scale coal-fired power plants that capture carbon dioxide emissions…environmental groups are concerned that Congress will not put tight enough restrictions on "clean coal" projects - requirements that they actually limit their greenhouse gas emissions and do so now, rather than much later. Also, some citizen groups, especially those opposing mountaintop removal in Appalachia, argue there is no such thing as 'clean coal'…"
"3TIER…announced the expansion of its FirstLook® Prospecting Tool, now providing free access to average wind speed ranges anywhere in the world, through a dynamic 5 km resolution map. Using the most accurate, consistent and comprehensive dataset ever created, FirstLook provides a fast, Web-based assessment tool to globally prospect for viable wind energy generation locations…
"As renewable energy developers identify promising wind resources, they can augment FirstLook’s initial wind assessment by purchasing more detailed reports that provide a more in-depth estimate of wind resources at specific locations.
"Available in just minutes, a FirstLook Wind Assessment Report includes…Average annual wind speed for the area around your site (50 km by 50 km or 31 miles by 31 miles)…Average monthly wind speed and standard of error for each month of the year…The distribution of hourly wind speeds throughout the year…A wind rose for all hourly wind speeds during the year…The average hourly wind speed and standard of error for each hour of the day…Wind roses for each month of the year…Daily wind speed patterns for each month of the year…"
"FirstLook Assessment Reports are currently available for the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Reports for additional regions will be made available throughout the year…
"To produce the 5 km wind map and the underlying dataset, 3TIER implemented an innovative physical-statistical modeling approach…3TIER’s system integrates statistical methods with the power of physical-based models, which simulate the interaction between the atmosphere and the earth’s surface, to create a more robust and accurate wind climatology…the myriad processes responsible for wind – from jet level dynamics to surface level processes and everything in between – are accounted for…to create realistic wind fields throughout the world…
"3TIER ran its model through a 10-year simulation across the world’s landmass at a 5 km resolution. The results then were calibrated and validated with observational data to create the final dataset and, ultimately, the world wind map…
"3TIER also is mapping the world’s solar resources…In addition to FirstLook, 3TIER provides a full suite of assessment and forecasting products for wind, hydro and solar energy projects…"
OBAMA, GORE OFFER THE NATION A NEW ENERGY OPPORTUNITY - WHY NOT?
Though there is no news of improvement on the national or international economic fronts, there is even more sobering news from climate change scientists about the state of our earth. A new, long-term forecast from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and scientific authorities from France and Switizerland that changes in the atmosphere now make drought and flooding irreversibly inevitable in this century. The only question remaining is how severe these will be.
Susan Solomon, senior scientist, NOAA: "I think you have to think about this stuff as more like nuclear waste than acid rain: The more we add, the worse off we'll be…The more time that we take to make decisions about carbon dioxide, the more irreversible climate change we'll be locked into."
Gore: “…as long as we continue to depend on dirty fossil fuels like coal and oil to meet our energy needs, and dump 70 million tons of global warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, we move closer and closer to several dangerous tipping points which scientists have repeatedly warned – again just yesterday – will threaten to make it impossible for us to avoid irretrievable destruction of the conditions that make human civilization possible on this planet…”
Excerpt from the Gore testimony. (click to enlarge) From FutureHD via YouTube.
Independence and self-reliance being essential ingredients in the American spirit, Americans do not ask anything more than opportunity and freedom in normal times but these are not normal times. The freefalling world economy and global climate change together comprise a challenge not for the individual or even for the nation but for the world community. In times like this, people look to their leaders.
President Barack Obama is working on an $800+ billion stimulus package designed both to reinvigorate the U.S. economy and renovate the way the U.S. uses energy. According to a recent report byFBR Capital Markets, ~1/3 of the $550 billion in direct spending will go to “green” purposes but only $8 billion will go to New Energy. Of $275 billion of the stimulus package tax credits, $16 billion will go to New Energy and “green” development. Yet the money is predicted to create 460,000 New Energy and Energy Efficiency jobs. As the President has envisioned, that’s quite a lot of value for the investment.
What is NOT bad news right now are the reports of the end to President Obama’s “post-partisan politics” accompanying news of the stimulus bill’s passage in the House of Representatives. These reports are entirely premature. The President’s effort to woo House Republicans was never expected to succeed. It was a demonstration of extraordinary bipartisanship aimed at drawing into deal-making the few moderate Republican Senators Mr. Obama needs to get his stimulus plan to a filibuster-busting 60 votes in the upper chamber. Watch John McCain (R-Ariz), Dick Lugar (R-Ind), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn) and the coterie of moderates around them.
President Obama: “A new energy economy is going to be part of what creates the millions of new jobs that we need…That’s why my economic recovery plan is going to be focused on how can we make a series of down payments on things we should have done 10, 20, 30 years ago.”
The good news: Both houses of Congress have agreed to most of the spending measures the President and the New Energy industries proposed, including extending the wind’s production credit for 3 years and allowing most of the New Energies (wind, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, landfill gas) in on solar’s 30% investment tax credit.
The bad news: Though the leaders of the New Energy industries insist that transforming the tax credits into U.S. Department of Energy grants is essential to make the stimulus package effective, conservatives in the Senate are blocking this vital improvement for New Energy and Energy Efficiency programs.
Big energy installations like wind projects and solar power plants cost billions. Smaller, distributed generation, like rooftop solar, small wind and private geothermal projects, are big expenses for individuals. In both cases, tax credits are not useful without taxable income to offset. Grants will make New Energy possible where tax credits will not.
This is especially true since major sources of financing have disappeared. In the last 2 years, the solar energy industry has lost 15 of its 20 big funding sources, the wind industry has lost 8 of its 14 funding sources and banks are reluctant to finance individual energy projects.
Kevin Book, vice president for energy policy, oil, and alternative energy, FBR Capital Markets: “A couple of things in the House measure are going to alarm fiscal conservatives – and one of those is loan guarantees being replaced by explicit payments…If Congress approves this, it absolutely will have investors looking at this as a green light [for New Energy and Energy Efficiency projects]…”
Former Vice-President Gore urged the Senators he addressed to back the President’s stimulus package in his testimony to the Foreign Relations Committee.
Gore: “In order to repower our economy, restore American economic and moral leadership in the world and regain control of our destiny, we must take bold action now. The first step is already before us. I urge this Congress to quickly pass the entirety of President Obama’s Recovery package. The plan’s unprecedented and critical investments in four key areas – energy efficiency, renewables, a unified national energy grid and the move to clean cars – represent an important down payment and are long overdue. These crucial investments will create millions of new jobs and hasten our economic recovery – while strengthening our national security and beginning to solve the climate crisis. Quickly building our capacity to generate clean electricity will lay the groundwork for the next major step needed: placing a price on carbon…”
California also created jobs in its “green” sector at 10 times the state’s economy-wide job growth, proving that building New Energy and emphasizing Energy Efficiency does indeed create jobs. The “green” jobs, the report indicated, were 20% manufacturing and were spread across the spectrum of “green” sub-sectors (advanced materials, transportation, air and environment, and green building).
Finally, the Next 10 report indicated California’s emphasis on New Energy and Energy Efficiency brought almost 60% of all U.S. venture capital investment into the state, another indication that they are good for the bottom line.
Reports from the wind and solar industries this year also affirm the idea of New Energy as an economy-booster. Still a small part of the overall economy, the New Energies nevertheless continue to show enormous growth. Solar energy industry investment growth jumped 145% from 2004 to 2007. Sales of New Energy hardware doubled in the last 4 years. The wind industry added more than 8300 megawatts of capacity in 2008, more than 40% of new U.S. power generation. It also added 35,000 new jobs.
The New Energy industries anticipate a major impact from the economic downturn but expect to outperform the larger economy. Market mavenKiplinger Forecastsagrees. Kiplinger foresees big growth in (1) hydroelectric (dam) power generation, (2) hydrokinetic (wave, tide and current) power generation, and (3) solar panel manufacturing and installation (driven by innovative funding programs from utilities and municipalities).
Both Wall Street and Main Street have always agreed that the business of America is business. They have tended until recently to turn away from that nagging little matter of the environment, pushing it off on so-called “tree-huggers” and “do-gooders.” What the New Energy and Energy Efficiency sector has proved, in California and nationally, is there does not have to be a choice between the economy and the health of the earth.
Gore: “For years our efforts to address the growing climate crisis have been undermined by the idea that we must choose between our planet and our way of life; between our moral duty and our economic well being. These are false choices. In fact, the solutions to the climate crisis are the very same solutions that will address our economic and national security crises as well.”
Californians registered more than 100,000 alternative-fuel vehicles (hybrids, electric cars, CNG vehicles, etc.) in 2007, more than 2% of the state’s new cars. More than 20% of all U.S. hybrids were registered in the San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento metro regions. Does that make Californians more socially conscious than other Americans? Maybe. Or maybe they’re just more serious about getting good gas mileage while driving to the beach. Either way, they cut their vehicle emissions and that’s the really important thing.
F. Noel Perry, founder, Next 10: "Imagine where the country could be if it were as efficient as California…"
Perry’s observation brings to mind the words of Senator Robert F. Kennedy that echo through history like a clarion call: “I dream things that never were and ask why not?”
Seems like what President Obama is asking a few Senators and the entire nation right now is “why not?”
WHO President Barack Obama; Former Vice-President/Nobel laureate/Academy Award-winner Al Gore; the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives; U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); American Wind Energy Association (AWEA); Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) (Rhone Resch, president); F. Noel Perry, former venture capitalist/founder, Next 10; Daniel Weiss, director of climate strategy, Center for American Progress; Doug Henton, chairman/CEO, Collaborative Economics
WHAT Will Congress allot what the President needs to make the stimulus package effective enough to double New Energy capacity in 3 years? Can the U.S. match California’s accomplishments as reported in the 2009 California Green Innovation Index? Will these things be enough to lead the world in the fight against global climate change?
WHEN - 2005 to 2007: California grew its green jobs 10% to ~105,000 while the state job growth was 1%. - 2007: New Energy was 7% of U.S. energy (petroleum 40%, coal 22%); of the New Energy, biomass was 53%, hydroelectric 36%, geothermal 5%, wind 5%, solar 1%. - 2007: 9,000 California businesses had green jobs. - 2008: Wind added 8358 megawatts for a total capacity of 25,107 megawatts. It added 35,000 employees for a total of 85,000 employees. It added $17 billion to the U.S. econonmy. - 2008: $3.3 billion in venture investments in California New Energy/Energy Efficiency companies. - The 2009 California Green Innovation Index ends in early 2007 so offers no insight into the impact of the economic downturn.
WHERE - The House has approved the crucial changes in New Energy tax credits (transforming them into DOE-administered grants) while the Senate rejected the idea. - California energy intensity/energy productivity (total gross domestic product produced per unit of energy): 68% higher than U.S. energy intensity. (California: $2.17 GDP/10,000 BTU; U.S.: $1.29 of GDP/10,000 BTU). - 69% of Californians believe global warming is a serious threat to the state's economy - 73% of Californians believe global warming is a serious threat to the state's quality of life. - California got 57% of total U.S. capital New Energy/Energy Efficiency investment, 69% to energy-generation, 8% to transportation. - California led the U.S. in patents issued for various solar, battery and wind-energy innovations.
WHY - Most of the stimulus package goes to temporary measures (tax cuts, emergency aid to the states, unemployment benefits extension, etc.). 1/3 of the $550 billion in direct spending is called “green” and $8 billion will go to New Energy. $16 billion of the $275 billion in tax credits will go to NewEnergy. - There will be $13 billion to extend the production tax credit for wind 3 years. Solar’s 30% investment tax credit was extended to wind, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, and landfill gas. - There will be $8 billion in DOE loan guarantees for New Energy but may be prevented from going to proven technologies. - Evidences of the economic downturn: (1) solar panel manufacturer OptiSolar laid off 300 workers this month, half its staff; (2) turbine-tower manufacturer D.M.I. Industries laid off 20% of its factory work force this month; (3) AWEA estimates 25-to-50% of planned projects won’t be built this year absent effective stimulus package support. - Definition of “green: jobs: “rovide products and services leveraging renewable energy resources, reducing pollution, conserving energy and natural resources, and repurposing waste.” - 2002 to 2007, California was the U.S. leader in patent registrations for green technologies (especially solar energy, fuel cells and batteries). - Kiplinger’s forecasts of opportunities in New Energy: (1) hydroelectric power from dams on rivers and streams will increase by 50% over the next decade, to around 10% of all power and up to 20% by mid-century. (2) Ocean-bed generators show promise as well. They're likely to gear up over the next decade to feed power to cities within a few hundred miles of U.S. coasts. (3) Utilities such as Southern California Edison, Portland General Electric and Duke Energy are developing leasing and power purchase relationships with business owners for access to rooftops. It will spur the solar panel business, add enormous solar capacity and generate revenues from otherwise depreciating large assets, buildings. (4) Municipal funding programs for homeowners like those being pioneered in Berkeley, CA, and Boulder, CO, will ~make houses the same.
A lengthier excerpt from the Gore testimony. About 4 minutes in, there's a stunning visualization of the loss of permanent arctic ice. From StartLoving1 via YouTube.
QUOTES - Rhone Resch, president, SEIA: “In order to achieve President Obama’s goal of doubling energy in three years, we will have to triple utilization of these tax credits…Without the tax-credit market, it’s going to be difficult to achieve that.” - Daniel Weiss, director of climate strategy, Center for American Progress: “The stimulus package would turbocharge our efforts to use energy more efficiently and build more renewable electricity facilities…” - Doug Henton, chairman/CEO, Collaborative Economics: "Some think of solar jobs as just installation or just R&D…It's along the whole value chain." - F. Noel Perry, former venture capitalist/founder, Next 10: "Here we are in January of '09, and we're hitting a rough spot…The question in California is how will green jobs be affected by that? How will venture capital be affected? All I can say is I don't know." - Kiplinger Forecasts: “There's plenty of action on the alternative energy front despite the considerable downdraft in most energy-related industries created by the severity of the recession.” - Al Gore: “If Congress acts right away to pass President Obama's Recovery package and then takes decisive action this year to institute a cap-and-trade system for CO2 emissions – as many of our states and many other countries have already done – the United States will regain its credibility and enter the Copenhagen treaty talks with a renewed authority to lead the world in shaping a fair and effective treaty. And this treaty must be negotiated this year…Not next year. This year…A fair, effective and balanced treaty will put in place the global architecture that will place the world – at long last and in the nick of time – on a path toward solving the climate crisis and securing the future of human civilization…”
“Despite a credit freeze that's stunting renewable-energy projects throughout the country, 2008 wasa hot year for solar powerin California.
”Encouraged by state rebates, Golden State residents and businesses last year installed a record 158 megawatts of photovoltaic panels on their rooftops to turn the sun's rays into electricity, the California Public Utilities Commission said…That's more than double the 78 megawatts installed in 2007.
“Residential demand appears to be hanging tough in the face of the shaky economy.”
“December saw the largest volume of homeowner rebate requests since the state launched the California Solar Initiative program two years ago…
”Funded by utility ratepayers, the program offers rebates...[of] 20% to 50% of a system's cost.
“Solar modules would seem a luxury in the current dismal economy. But experts said new federal tax breaks, on top of already generous state incentives, are encouraging some Californians to take the plunge. As of Jan. 1, homeowners are eligible for tax credits of up to 30% of the entire cost of their projects…
”Others have concluded that putting solar panels on their roofs and cutting their power bills is a safer bet than the stock market or real estate…”
“California-based Better Place and Denmark utility operator DONG Energy said Tuesday they will build a charging network so the nation's motorists can switch to electric cars.
"Dong and the Palo Alto-based startup said they have signed a deal aimed at cutting the amount of Earth-warming carbon gas emissions by giving Danes access to environmentally-friendly electric vehicles 'at attractive prices.'
“Better Place is to make available battery-powered electric vehicles offering "at least the same road-holding qualities as fuel-based cars" by the year 2011.
“Better Place has procured 135 million dollars in private funding for the Denmark project…”
“Better Place struck a partnership a year ago with France-based Renault for electric cars that are expected to be powered by an advanced lithium-ion battery pack created by Nissan in a joint venture with NEC of Japan…
“Project Better Place and DONG are members of the Copenhagen Climate Council, a forum devoted to establishing a global agreement at the climate summit in Copenhagen and developing innovative solutions to climate challenges.
“Better Place is reportedly working on a similar project in Israel.”
“The World Bank and other development banks will support flagging carbon markets to prevent a slump in greenhouse-gas reduction projects and protect the climate…
“European Union carbon dioxide allowances have slumped 61 percent since a July 2 peak on concern a recession will lower production and drive emissions below a cap set by regulators in the five years through 2012. That drop in the biggest carbon market reduces the incentive to build solar parks in China and curb industrial gases in India, which get revenue from selling emission credits that can be used in Europe…”
“Development banks and governments will want to ensure that the recession does not slow a movement away from high-emitting fossil fuels to protect the climate from the greenhouse gases they generate…
“Spot EU carbon dioxide allowances…closed at a record low 11.08 euros on Jan. 20. United Nations certified emission reductions for December rose 2 cents from a record low to 10.05 euros a ton on the European Climate Exchange in London.
“UN credits can be used as a cheaper alternative in the EU program, which covers about 11,000 factories and power stations in the region.
“In July, the World Bank created two climate funds that will reach $5 billion for projects or programs in developing nations…”
“Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE: STP), the world's leading manufacturer of photovoltaic (PV) modules, and Standard Solar, Inc. are looking forward to powering cleaner energy solutions throughout the Mid-Atlantic U.S. under a new agreement by which Suntech will supply up to 5 megawatts of photovoltaic solar panels to the Maryland-based solar developer and installer during 2009…”
“Standard Solar looks forward to deploying Suntech's high-quality panels in solar solutions that deliver cost-effective power. Recently, Standard Solar helped Kelly & Sons Electrical Construction source its electricity supply through a power purchase agreement with Washington Gas Energy Services…
“Suntech recently achieved 1 gigawatt of global solar panel production capacity. In doing so, it completed an 18,000 square meter, 1 megawatt solar facade -- the world's largest to date -- at its new world headquarters in Wuxi, China…”
WIND POWER OR POWER BROKERS OFF CAPE—WHAT WOULD BARACK OBAMA DO?
President Obama is said to have long thought about his unique responsibility to his supporters. David Axelrod, one of the President’s closest political advisors and friends, says Mr. Obama once, early in the 2008 campaign, wondered aloud if he could be the man his supporters and believers needed him to be, if he could “…be Barack Obama.”
Soon the new President must make a decision about the newest force in wind power and, in doing so, choose between being the Barack Obama who is New Energy’s biggest booster or succumbing – out of loyalty to one of the most powerful of his own boosters – to one of the most flagrant cases of NIMBYism ever to block New Energy’s path.
Cape Windis the installation that has for 8 years wanted to be the United States’ first offshore wind project. Planned to turn the powerful winds of Nantucket Sound into vitally needed New Energy, only the Not-In-My-BackYard (NIMBY) opposition of powerful Cape Cod families for whom it is not a vital New Energy source but a minor inconvenience has stopped it.
The Kennedy family has been among the leaders to Cape Wind’s opposition. This puts the Obama administration in a potentially embarrassing position and the new President’s political opponents are waiting to pounce.
It seems almost inconceivable the Republican right could get a New Energy edge on the President politically but if the new administration sustains the contention of the Cape Cod powerbrokers that Cape Wind is objectionable, the President’s opponents will characterize it as an act of “patronage” to Senator Kennedy and portray Mr. Obama as a New Energy hypocrite. Preparations are already being made.
In the journalNational Review, a cornerstone of conservative thinking, Jim Geraghty wrote: “We’ll know within a month how sincere Pres. Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar really were in their promise to harness the wind to help meet the country’s energy needs: Sen. Ted Kennedy has de facto veto power over projects in his home state, and he’s trying to stop an initiative called Cape Wind.”
The U.S. has no offshore wind installations, despite the fact that New Energy planners in the U.S., Europe and Asia agree offshore wind must play an integral role if New Energy is to realize its potential. Europe has some 20 offshore installations and will in the next 2 years likely double that number.
The U.S. Department of Energy last year found it entirely feasible for the wind energy industry to provide 20% of the nation’s power by 2030. The finding assumed 20% of the 20% will come from offshore installations. There are obstacles, including opposition from the traditional power generation industries, supply chain congestion and inadequate transmission. But the worst hurt of all is the one that comes from wind’s friends, the NIMBYs.
An unnamed Cape Wind advocate, quoted by Geraghty: “There would have to be some extraordinary reason [for the Obama administration] to not make a favorable decision [on Cape Wind], aside from deference to Ted Kennedy…And if deference to Ted Kennedy is what delays this project, this means that deference is being paid by the president himself—and [that he’s] doing so at the expense of his pledges on energy policy.”
Cape Wind has enormous potential. Poll after poll shows the vast majority of Massachusetts citizens are for it. Its advocates say its only opponents are people who use the word “summer” as a verb, people who talk about “visual pollution” when they actually mean “the view of the few.” Even Masssachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a longtime friend and advisor to President Obama, is a Cape Wind advocate. It has been unequivocally established by numerous investigative journalists that the opposition to Cape Wind comes from groups funded by the wealthy few.
Cape Cod Times: “…what really upsets these well-to-do Don Quixotes is the thought of looking at windmills that would appear about as tall on the horizon as the thumbnail at the end of your outstretched arm.”
Both Senator Kennedy and environmental hero Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., have worked to stop Cape Wind on the grounds of its impact on the marine environment. Yetthe final Environmental Impact Study (EIS)from the Department of Interior (DOI) Minerals Management Services (MMS) concluded, in its painstakingly exhaustive 2,800 page report, that the environmental impact would be largely "negligible" and the impact on the scenery would be "moderate."
There was one significant problem.
MMS EIS (as quoted by Geraghty): “Cape Wind will also have an adverse visual impact on 28 historic properties including the Kennedy compound, Nantucket historic district, Nobiska Point lighthouse, Monomoy Point lighthouse and several other light houses and proposed or existing historic districts.”
Senator Kennedy issued a statement in response to the study.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy: “I do not believe that this action by the Interior Department will be sustained…By taking this action, the Interior Department has virtually assured years of continued public conflict and contentious litigation.”
Other great advocates for the environment and for New Energy, like Senator John Kerry (D-Mass) and Congressman Ed Markey (D-Mass), have avoided this issue. The American Wind Energy Association and multiple environmental groups, from Greenpeace to the Union of Concerned Scientists, support Cape Wind.
If President Obama sides with Senator Kennedy, the man whose crucial endorsement may have turned the Democratic Presidential primary in his favor last year, in the face of overwhelming evidence in favor of the Cape Wind project, he will give Republicans something they have recently been anxiously looking for, a way to portray themselves no less objectionable to New Energy advocates than the Democrats.
Karl Rove, political guru to outgoing Republican President George W. Bush: “Voters ages 18 to 29 voted Democratic by a 2-to-1 margin…A market-oriented ‘green’ agenda that’s true to our principles would help win them back.” (SeeSPEW MUST STOP & ACTION IS COMING…)
UK Conservatives have successfully co-opted the “green” label in the post-Tony Blair years in a similar way. Obama’s Republican opposition is watching for an opportunity.
Whit Ayres, Republican pollster: “Obama is attractive to young people, but that doesn’t mean Republicans can’t still get in the game…”
Would President Obama fail to support New Energy? Cape Wind advocates do not take his support for granted.
Sue Reid, Conservation Law Foundation: "The opponents have proven to be very crafty and to embrace a scorched-earth approach to fighting this project…Of course we are going to be vigilant."
Perhaps the saddest part of the Cape Cod powerbrokers’ opposition to Cape Wind is how much they have mimicked the misinformed mischaracterizations of wind power normally heard from the obstinate naysayers of Old Energy.
Congressman Bill Delahunt (D-Massachusetts): "[Cape Wind is] a $2 billion project that depends on significant taxpayer subsidies while potentially doubling power costs for the region."
By making such claims, they lay the entire call for New Energy open to charges of hypocrisy.
Cape Cod Times editorial: “Good to see the Congressman now recognizes the limitations of green tech, such as its tendency to boost consumer electricity prices - but his makeover as taxpayer champion is a bit belated. Green energy has been on the subsidy take for years, including in 2005 when Mr. Delahunt was calling for "an Apollo project for alternative energy sources, for hybrid engines, for biodiesel, for wind and solar and everything else." The reality is that all such projects are only commercially viable because of political patronage.”
There is little doubt wind’s opponents will make use of this controversy. In its editorial describing Massachusetts Democrats’ opposition to Cape Wind, the Cape Cod Times seized the opportunity to completely skew the discussion.
Cape Cod Times editorial: “The Energy Information Administration estimates that wind receives $23.37 in government benefits per megawatt hour -- compared to, say, 44 cents for coal. Despite these taxpayer crutches, wind only provides a little under 1% of U.S. net electric generation.”
Wrong firstly because wind now provides almost 2% of U.S. power and is growing as fast as its recalcitrant, truth-defying opposition can be beaten back. It is the fastest growing form of new power generation in the country and was, in the most recent national statistics, second only to natural gas in providing new power generation.
And wrong secondly because the quoted calculation of “benefits per megawatt” fails to consider a whole range of expenses for coal. In fact, most fair-minded calculations rank subsidies to coal higher than those to all of New Energy. And that is without considering coal’s 150-year history of federally-subsidized development and all the societal ills the coal industry perpetrates on the public, from true environmental devastation to the lung disease and cancers it causes. To create an opportunity for New Energy sources of environmentally benign, infinitely renewable power generation to get in the game against the malignant entrenched interests of coal and traditional sources, the federal government provides a relatively meager tax credit.
Yet the Kennedy position on Cape Wind lays New Energy and the new President open to such accusations as well as to the accusation of hypocrisy.
Cape Cod Times editorial: “We wouldn't be surprised to see the President's green future wrestled to the ground by the likes of Mr. Delahunt, the Kennedys and other anticarbon Democrats. Environmentalists love the idea of milking Mother Nature for power, but they hate the hardware needed to make it work: huge windmills, acres of solar panels, high-voltage transmission lines to connect them to the places where people live. Of course, they still totally, absolutely, wholeheartedly support green energy -- as long as it gets built where someone else goes yachting.”
Politics may seem to idealists like the carrying forth of a cause but to professionals it is merely the art of the possible. What is possible is what the political professional contributes to the cause. What is not possible is handled by spin, slipped by on a holiday weekend or indefinitely put aside. The Obama administration has promised a higher level of responsibility. It has promised to answer to its constituents.
The President was able to fulfill his promise to force stronger vehicle fuel emissions standards because it crossed no allies. The decision on Cape Wind is different. Siding with his constituents means crossing the Kennedys, which could be more than a personal betrayal. The President may need Senator Kennedy to see the health care reform agenda through Congress.
On the other hand, the heavily burdened Senator might feel he needs the President, to make certain health care reform is on the agenda soon enough to become the last and most lasting piece in the monumental Edward Kennedy legacy. Governor Patrick could be part of a conciliatory negotiation, in which the Governor convinces the Kennedys to accept Cape Wind and health care reform moves to the top of the Obama legislative agenda.
With the Cape Wind EIS released, a final decision on Cape Wind is expected from DOI in the next 30 days (though certain agency approvals, considered formalities after the thorough EIS, are still pending). If Ken Salazar, the President’s newly appointed Secretary of the Interior, approves, installation of the Cape Wind project will begin in 2010.
There is an opportunity in this small but crucial crisis for the President to prevent Senator Kennedy from leaving a tarnish on his great record of service to his state and his nation. To do so, Mr. Obama must remain true to his campaign promise of New Energy for America.
Greenpeace calls for Cape Wind. From greenpeaceusa via YouTube.
WHO President Barack Obama; Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.; Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; Minerals Management Service of Department of the Interior (DOI) Ken Salazar, Secretary); Jim Gordon, CEO. Cape Wind LLC; Greenpeace
WHAT Cape Wind requires only a few formalities and the approval of President Obama’s Department of Interior to become the nation's first offshore wind farm.
WHEN - November 2001: Cape Wind LLC filed its first application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - January 2009: MMS approval. - FAA and DOI Inspector General approval pending - 2010: If approved, installation will begin. - Late 2011 or early 2012: It would be online.
WHERE - Cape Wind will be located in federal waters 4.7 miles offshore opposite Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in Nantucket Sound. - There will be a clear sightline from the Kennedy family's oceanside Hyannis Port, Mass., compound. - There are reportedly 12+ pending applications for offshore wind installations, including off Maine, New Jersey, New York and Delaware.
WHY - Cape Wind is a $1 billion project to build 130 turbines across a 25-mile stretch of ocean. It will meet 75% of the region's electricity needs and cut greenhouse gas emissions by some 734,000 tons annually. - MMS says the wind farm project poses no major environmental impacts. - Reviews by the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board, permits from the Federal Aviation Administration and the and Coast Guard and the DOI Inspector General must approve the EIS process. - A DOE study found it is feasible for wind to provide 20% of U.S. power by 2030, with offshore wind providing 20% of it. - Senator Kennedy wanted Senate colleague Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) to add wording in a spending bill that would have provided grounds for then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to veto Cape Wind. - One of the few issue-related compromises made by Robert Kennedy Jr., a Time magazine "hero of the planet," was his attempt to defeat Cape Wind by getting Nantucket Sound designated as a national marine sanctuary. - Greenpeace is in favor of Cape Wind.
A neutral assessment. From FLYPMedia via YouTube.
QUOTES - Kennedy, on Cape Wind: "The interests of our state have been basically submerged to a special interest developer…" - Patrick, on Cape Wind: "I haven't come to my conclusions for political reasons; I've come to my conclusions because I'm convinced that the future of our economy is very much connected to the development of a vibrant industry in alternative and renewable energy…" - Cape Cod Times editorial: “…there is the political saga, with the Kennedy family as the Hyannis Port Sopranos, supplying the muscle. While Ted Kennedy was castigating President Bush for destroying the environment, the Senator was working furiously behind the Congressional scenes to kill Cape Wind.” - Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior: “As part of the President-Elect’s energy team, I will work to modernize our interstate electrical grid, expand the use of renewable energy like solar and wind on public lands, and help tribes develop renewable energy resources on their lands.”
"Greenhouse gas levels currently expected by mid-century will produce devastating long-term droughts and a sea-level rise that will persist for 1,000 years regardless of how well the world curbs future emissions of carbon dioxide…Top climate researchers from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Switzerland and France said…
"…carbon dioxide will remain near peak levels in the atmosphere far longer than other greenhouse gases, which dissipate relatively quickly…carbon concentrations in the atmosphere stand at 385 parts per million…climate scientists and the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have set a goal of stabilizing atmospheric carbon at 450 ppm, but current projections put the world on track to hit 550 ppm by 2035, rising after that point by 4.5 percent a year…"
"…if carbon dioxide concentrations peak at 600 ppm, several regions of the world -- including southwestern North America, the Mediterranean and southern Africa -- will face major droughts as bad or worse than the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Global sea levels will rise by about three feet by the year 3000, a projection that does not factor in melting glaciers and polar ice sheets that would probably result in significant additional sea level rises.
"Even if the world managed to halt the carbon dioxide buildup at 450 ppm, the researchers concluded, the subtropics would experience a 10 percent decrease in precipitation…That level is still akin to mega-droughts such as the Dust Bowl. The already parched U.S. Southwest would probably see a 5 percent drop in precipitation during its dry season…while societies can try to adapt to reduced precipitation with better farming techniques and other measures, there is a limit to the ability to cope with severe drought…"
"The rising sea levels anticipated under a conservative projection…would cause "irreversible commitments to future changes in the geography of the Earth…"
"…the world's oceans are already absorbing an enormous amount of carbon, but over time this will reach a limit and they will no longer absorb as much. As this happens, the atmospheric temperature will remain nearly constant.
"Most previous scientific analyses…have assessed climate change impacts on a 100-year time scale. A few researchers…have argued that it makes more sense to look at a time scale of at least 500 years…Carbon dioxide emissions account only for about half of human-induced global warming, but the several other gases that play a role, including methane, dissipate more quickly…
"A separate study in the same journal yesterday suggests that the iconic emperor penguins of the Antarctic could be headed to extinction by 2100 if the sea ice shrinks by the predicted amounts…Emperor penguins would have to migrate or change the timing of their growth stages to avoid extinction…"
“The venture capital industry is getting a bit skittish -- investments in startup companies fell eight percent from 2007 to $28.3 billion in 2008, the National Venture Capital Association reported…
“But even with VC firms tightening their belts in the face of the recession, there is still one type of technology that is scoring big investment bucks: solar energy…"clean tech" companies received 50 percent more venture money in 2008 than they did in 2007…"
“Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) and Pennington, N.J.-based Ocean Power Technologies (Nasdaq: OPTT) said today they plan to co-develop a utility-scale wave power project in North America.
“It's the first time the two companies have worked together on a utility-scale project, but Lockheed and OPT are already co-developing systems for the U.S. homeland security and maritime surveillance using OPT's wave energy system and Lockheed's acoustic sensors, signal processing and communications systems…
“The utility-scale project is planned for the coasts of California or Oregon using OPT's PowerBuoy wave energy system. OPT plans to provide the technology, develop the site, and build the power take-off and control systems. Lockheed plans to build, deploy, operate and maintain the project, as well as integrating systems."
“It's not Lockheed's first foray into renewable energy projects. In November 2007, Lockheed and Starwood Energy Group announced plans for utility-scale solar projects…
“In December 2008, Lockheed Martin broke ground for construction of a solar power test bed to support these efforts…”
"In December, OPT said it was operating with an $8 million backlog of orders as it focuses efforts on bringing its 150 kilowatt PowerBuoy into production for the utility-scale power generation market during the next year…with components manufacturers expected to begin production before the end of 2009.
"The company's 40 kW PowerBuoy is capable of providing autonomous power for deepwater use… "
“Permits to release a ton of carbon dioxide into the sky need to cost about $50 each, or three times Europe’s current price, for companies to invest in experimental technology to trap the greenhouse gas, Nicholas Stern said.
“Projects that capture and safely bury CO2 underground must be developed to play a role in controlling global emissions of the global-warming gas during the next 20 to 30 years, the London School of Economics professor said…
“Power-plant operators, scientists and economists worldwide are investigating the unproven technology to determine whether it could safely and economically store the greenhouse gas below ground…"
“Under European laws that set emissions limits and carbon trading rules, industrial polluters are required to own permits to release each ton of CO2 they produce. European emissions permits for 2009 currently trade at about 12 euros ($15.) At that price it would be cheaper for a coal-burning plant to buy an allowance than invest in devices to bury CO2, the main global-warming gas…
“Carbon capture and storage will be vital to the United Nation’s goal to halve global emissions by 2050, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency…Stern backs a mix of renewable energy technologies as well as carbon capture…
“The 27-nation European Union plans to subsidize as many as 12 demonstration plants for carbon capture to test the feasibility of catching emissions from power plants and pumping them underground.”
Predictions about the future, contrary to the popular witticism, are not always difficult. It is easy, for instance, to say with near certainty that SOMEBODY will win the lottery. That a particular somebody named Hugo will win is unforeseeable, except within the melodramatic confines of TV’sLOST.
If there are some future things that are veritably certain, one is surely that the wind energy industry, the New Energy sector’s capacity leader, will grow by leaps and bounds in the 21st century. What will happen to growth during the Obama administration, however, is now burdened with enough uncertainty to leave predictors lost.
The Obama plan calls for innovation and development in all the New Energies (i.e., solar, wind and hydrokinetics, etc.) as well as in fuel-efficient personal transport, in building efficiencies and in energy transmission infrastructure. The new President reaffirmed his commitment to that plan January 26.
President Obama: "We will commit ourselves to steady, focused, pragmatic pursuit of an America that is freed from our energy dependence, and empowered by a new energy economy that puts millions of our citizens to work…Now is the time to meet the challenge of this crossroads of history, by choosing a future safer for our country, prosperous for our planet, and sustainable."
In the January 26 statement, President Obama ordered his Environmental Protection Agency to set aside Bush-era obstructions and allow the higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards sought by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his coalition of concerned states.
The new President has long called for more fuel-efficient vehicles from Detroit automakers. He faced an audience of car executives in 2007 and told them it should be their goal as well.
From the 2007 speech: “The auto industry’s refusal to act for so long has left it mired in a predicament for which there is no easy way out…For years, while foreign competitors were investing in more fuel-efficient technology for their vehicles, American automakers were spending their time investing in bigger, faster cars. And whenever an attempt was made to raise our fuel efficiency standards, the auto companies would lobby furiously against it…I’m making this proposal here today because I don’t believe in making proposals in California and giving a different speech in Michigan…[He was making the proposals] not to destroy the industry, but to help bring it into the 21st century…” (SeeHOW OBAMA WILL HANDLE DETROIT)
The new administration’s rollout of its plans for a New Energy economy has been adroit, leaving its opponents with no better response than empty accusations of a White House staffer’s remote ties to progressive causes. (SeeSenate Confirms Four Women to Cabinet) In addition to ordering EPA to allow the states’ higher efficiency standard instead of toeing the Bush line of insistence on a single, more lax national standard, President Obama also ordered his Department of Transportation (DOT) to write new, short-term rules for improved fuel efficiency.
In the statement, the President also reiterated his intention to simultaneously boost the economy and attack emissions by (1) funding New Energy to double-capacity in 3 years, (2) adding 3,000 miles of new transmission that will deliver New Energy-generated electrricity to the population centers where it is needed, (3) making 75% of federal buildings energy efficient and (4) weatherizing 2 million U.S. homes.
Confirmation of the long-term potential for growth in the wind energy industry came recently in reports from both theEuropean Wind Energy Association (EWEA)and theGlobal Wind Energy Council (GWEC). Both predict growth in capacity that must, inevitably, drive the expansion of the supply chain, create steadily improving economies of scale, bring costs down and stimulate demand.
Steve Sawyer, secretary general, GWEC: "It has been another record year for the industry. People say these growth rates can't go on forever, but they keep on going on…"
At the same conference where Sawyer talked about wind’s growth, Goldman Sachs predicted wind and solar companies face short-term financial challenges due to the credit crunch. U.S. wind and solar industry leaders recently admitted present development is inhibited by the fact that financial institutions like Lehman Brothers and AIG are now no longer available to fund projects. In the last 2 years, wind has lost 8 of its 14 biggest funding sources and solar has lost 15 of its 20 biggest. Goldman Sachs’ ratings of New Energy companies have been revised accordingly, with wind companies are doing better than those in solar because it is a "more mature" and "more scalable" technology.
The Obama stimulus plan, which allots big funding to New Energy, will compensate for some of the fall off in financing. A recent addition to the plan now making its way through Congress provides grants to New Energy producers, freeing them from the need to find financial partners who need tax credits.
Bank of America Securities-Merrill Lynch research note to clients: “Adjusting tax incentives so they are more broadly usable is the most important policy adjustment needed…Funding is sparse and demand is being affected by the depression as well as low fossil-fuel prices.”
Frank Mastiaux, head of climate and renewables with European energy and transmission giant Eon, pointed out the wind industry would need to install a turbine every 25 minutes in order to meet the world’s predicted rise in energy demand. Mastiaux’s striking statistic is less an indictment of the wind industry’s limited capacity than a stark message about coming world energy requirements. If anything, the number demonstrates why it is so urgent to build as much new wind capacity as possible. At the same time, it should be noted that the wind industry never claimed to be the ONLY source of new power generation, just the cheapest clean source of new generation at present.
Andrew Garrard, wind industry consultant, Garrard Hassan: "…I think in future it will be the cheapest and cleanest form of electricity supply…[Leaders should be calling for investment in wind] instead of protecting old industries." (Which is, of course, exactly what Barack Obama is doing.)
Take note: Eon’s Mastiaux also said his company is building a new turbine about every 10 hours. If just 25 big companies (like GE and Vestas) were to match Eon, it would actually make for a new turbine about every 25 minutes.
Christian Kjaer, CEO, EWEA: "Wind power not only has the potential to satisfy the increasing electricity demand in a sustainable manner, it is also a significant and vital stimulus to economies…"
Europe is the world leader in wind at present but industry analysts see China coming on strong. Leaders in China and Europe see something clearly that U.S. power providers apparently have only had a glimmer of so far.
Kjaer, EWEA: "Russia plays with the taps every New Year…It's not going to get any easier, and we can't carry on handing all this wealth to a handful of fossil fuel exporting nations."
As inevitable as the long-term outlook for wind is, even Kjaer acknowledges short-term doubt, but: "There will be a market for medium-risk, medium-return investments, and that's where the wind sector is…"
Some question the wisdom of the enormous spending it will take to meet the President’s New Energy goals. One estimate puts the cost of doubling capacity at $150 billion (calcualted at $2 million for 1 megawatt of wind and $4-to-8 million for 1 megawatt of solar). Others doubt the New Energy industries’ capacity to scale up fast enough to meet the President’s goals. If the U.S. New Energy industries can’t meet the President’s goals, it will not surprise the nabobs of the Old Energy industries like Michael Morris, the CEO of American Electrical Power Company (AEP), the biggest U.S. coal burner.
Michael Morris, CEO, AEP: “I’m not anti-wind at all and I’m not anti-solar…I’m just not sure we can double it so quickly. The supply chain is incapable of handling it. And I don’t think there is enough capital available today to put into that space.”
What the naysaying nabobs may underestimate is the new political leadership’s commitment to the New Energy economy.
Jerry Taylor, senior fellow, Cato Institute: “With the new balance of power in the House and Senate, I would be surprised if they couldn’t write their own ticket when it comes to renewable energy…”
Proponents of the President’s plans cite the recent years’ unprecedented New Energy growth and other U.S. manufacturing sector accomplishments, like the ramping up of the airplane industry in World War II, the boom of the post-war auto industry and the remarkable digital revolution of the 1990s.
Though some may have forgotten it during the last 8 years, the new President clearly has not: The country was once capable of unbelievably magnificent things and can be again.
President Obama’s statement on auto fuel efficiency. From AssociatedPress via YouTube
WHO President Barack Obama; California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; Todd Stern, Clinton administration diplomat; Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) (Steve Sawyer, secretary general); European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) (Christian Kjaer, CEO)
WHAT Long term growth in the wind energy industry is almost certain. The short term is unclear. If the Obama administration’s stimulus plan works, it will certainly sustain growth if not boosting it. Its backing of a path toward better vehicle fuel efficiencies is the first concrete gesture of its commitment.
WHEN - 2007: 108,600 directly employed in the EU wind energy sector, 59% in turbine and component manufacturing, the rest in installation, maintenance, project development and research. 42,700 more were indirectly employed. - 2007 Total U.S. New Energy capacity: 28,721 megawatts - 2008: The world wind energy industry grew 30%. - 2011: The standards President Obama backs enacts new vehicle fuel efficiency standards within 2 years. - 2016: The California vehicle fuel efficiency standard cuts emissions 30% by 2016. - 2020: The 2007 energy bill changed U.S. fuel efficiency standards for the first time since 1982, requiring domestic fleets to average 35 miles per gallon by 2020. - 2020: EWEA predicts 12% of EU power will come from wind by 2020. - Stern served in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 2000 and attended the Kyoto summit.
WHERE - Europe is the world leader in wind development, with 400,000 people employed in the sector and projections of 3 million employees by mid century. - Germany, Spain and Denmark, homes of the major manufacturers, account for ¾ of wind-provided employment. (Especially Denmark's Esbjerg and Spain's Navarre regions) - China’s plans to finance an expansion in wind capacity make it the expected next leader. Its expansion is already driving changes in the industry’s supply chain.
WHY - 1 million people are expected to work in the wind energy industry globally by 2010. - One calculation suggests the wind industry would need to add a turbine every 25 minutes to meet world energy needs. - Goldman Sachs says wind and solar companies face financial challenges due to the credit crunch. Financing shortfalls will reduce or delay demand and affect volumes, pricing and profitability. Ratings are being revised on investments accordingly. Wind companies are faring bettter than solar because it is considered more mature and more scalable. - EWEA expects the wind industry to provide 330,000 jobs by 2020. - The Obama American Recovery and Revitalization stimulus plan provides billions in funding and tax breaks for New Energy. - Acciona SA last year completed a 64-megawatt solar plant in the Nevada desert for $266 million. - Obama ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review its refusal of a waiver which had previously allowed California to set its own - stricter - vehicle emission and fuel efficiency standards. - The EU climate package calls for car industry average fuel emissions of 120g of CO2 per kilometre by 2012 for new cars, compared with current levels of 160g/km. - The EU target for 2020 is 95g/km. CO2 emissions vary from car to car. Manufacturers have until 2015 to meet specific targets for each model. - Clinton administration diplomat was appointed “climate change envoy” by President Obama.
QUOTES - Jason Channell, analyst, Goldman Sachs: "We believe that the most important theme in 2009 within the alternative energy space will be a move from severe undersupply to one of at least a more balanced market and potentially serious oversupply…" - Andrew Garrad, Garrad Hassan: "Europe's domination of wind is over…" - Christian Kjaer, CEO, EWEA: "Wind power not only has the potential to satisfy the increasing electricity demand in a sustainable manner, it is also a significant and vital stimulus to economies…" - Brian Redmond, managing director, CP Energy Group LLC: “The project-development cycle is three to five years so you can’t just stop and start on a dime…” - President Obama: "The days of Washington dragging its heels are over…My administration will not deny facts. We will be guided by them."
Plug-in Hybrids: The Cars that will ReCharge America by Sherry Boschert: "Smart companies plan ahead and try to be the first to adopt new technology that will give them a competitive advantage. That’s what Toyota and Honda did with hybrids, and now they’re sitting pretty. Whichever company is first to bring a good plug-in hybrid to market will not only change their fortune but change the world."
Oil On The Brain; Adventures from the Pump to the Pipeline by Lisa Margonelli: "Spills are one of the costs of oil consumption that don’t appear at the pump. [Oil consultant Dagmar Schmidt Erkin]’s data shows that 120 million gallons of oil were spilled in inland waters between 1985 and 2003. From that she calculates that between 1980 and 2003, pipelines spilled 27 gallons of oil for every billion “ton miles” of oil they transported, while barges and tankers spilled around 15 gallons and trucks spilled 37 gallons. (A ton of oil is 294 gallons. If you ship a ton of oil for one mile you have one ton mile.) Right now the United States ships about 900 billion ton miles of oil and oil products per year."
NOTEWORTHY IN THE MEDIA:
NewEnergyNews would welcome any media-saavy volunteer who would like to re-develop this section of the page. Announcements and reviews of film, television, radio and music related to energy and environmental issues are welcome.
Review of OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, The American Decades by Mark S. Friedman
OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, The American Decades, the second volume of Herman K. Trabish’s retelling of oil’s history in fiction, picks up where the first book in the series, OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, The Story of Our Addiction, left off. The new book is an engrossing, informative and entertaining tale of the Roaring 20s, World War II and the Cold War. You don’t have to know anything about the first historical fiction’s adventures set between the Civil War, when oil became a major commodity, and World War I, when it became a vital commodity, to enjoy this new chronicle of the U.S. emergence as a world superpower and a world oil power.
As the new book opens, Lefash, a minor character in the first book, witnesses the role Big Oil played in designing the post-Great War world at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Unjustly implicated in a murder perpetrated by Big Oil agents, LeFash takes the name Livingstone and flees to the U.S. to clear himself. Livingstone’s quest leads him through Babe Ruth’s New York City and Al Capone’s Chicago into oil boom Oklahoma. Stymied by oil and circumstance, Livingstone marries, has a son and eventually, surprisingly, resolves his grievances with the murderer and with oil.
In the new novel’s second episode the oil-and-auto-industry dynasty from the first book re-emerges in the charismatic person of Victoria Wade Bridger, “the woman everybody loved.” Victoria meets Saudi dynasty founder Ibn Saud, spies for the State Department in the Vichy embassy in Washington, D.C., and – for profound and moving personal reasons – accepts a mission into the heart of Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe. Underlying all Victoria’s travels is the struggle between the allies and axis for control of the crucial oil resources that drove World War II.
As the Cold War begins, the novel’s third episode recounts the historic 1951 moment when Britain’s MI-6 handed off its operations in Iran to the CIA, marking the end to Britain’s dark manipulations and the beginning of the same work by the CIA. But in Trabish’s telling, the covert overthrow of Mossadeq in favor of the ill-fated Shah becomes a compelling romance and a melodramatic homage to the iconic “Casablanca” of Bogart and Bergman.
Monty Livingstone, veteran of an oil field youth, European WWII combat and a star-crossed post-war Berlin affair with a Russian female soldier, comes to 1951 Iran working for a U.S. oil company. He re-encounters his lost Russian love, now a Soviet agent helping prop up Mossadeq and extend Mother Russia’s Iranian oil ambitions. The reunited lovers are caught in a web of political, religious and Cold War forces until oil and power merge to restore the Shah to his future fate. The romance ends satisfyingly, America and the Soviet Union are the only forces left on the world stage and ambiguity is resolved with the answer so many of Trabish’s characters ultimately turn to: Oil.
Commenting on a recent National Petroleum Council report calling for government subsidies of the fossil fuels industries, a distinguished scholar said, “It appears that the whole report buys these dubious arguments that the consumer of energy is somehow stupid about energy…” Trabish’s great and important accomplishment is that you cannot read his emotionally engaging and informative tall tales and remain that stupid energy consumer. With our world rushing headlong toward Peak Oil and epic climate change, the OIL IN THEIR BLOOD series is a timely service as well as a consummate literary performance.
Review of OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, The Story of Our Addiction by Mark S. Friedman
"...ours is a culture of energy illiterates." (Paul Roberts, THE END OF OIL)
OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, a superb new historical fiction by Herman K. Trabish, addresses our energy illiteracy by putting the development of our addiction into a story about real people, giving readers a chance to think about how our addiction happened. Trabish's style is fine, straightforward storytelling and he tells his stories through his characters.
The book is the answer an oil family's matriarch gives to an interviewer who asks her to pass judgment on the industry. Like history itself, it is easier to tell stories about the oil industry than to judge it. She and Trabish let readers come to their own conclusions.
She begins by telling the story of her parents in post-Civil War western Pennsylvania, when oil became big business. This part of the story is like a John Ford western and its characters are classic American melodramatic heroes, heroines and villains.
In Part II, the matriarch tells the tragic story of the second generation and reveals how she came to be part of the tales. We see oil become an international commodity, traded on Wall Street and sought from London to Baku to Mesopotamia to Borneo. A baseball subplot compares the growth of the oil business to the growth of baseball, a fascinating reflection of our current president's personal career.
There is an unforgettable image near the center of the story: International oil entrepreneurs talk on a Baku street. This is Trabish at his best, portraying good men doing bad and bad men doing good, all laying plans for wealth and power in the muddy, oily alley of a tiny ancient town in the middle of everywhere. Because Part I was about triumphant American heroes, the tragedy here is entirely unexpected, despite Trabish's repeated allusions to other stories (Casey At The Bat, Hamlet) that do not end well.
In the final section, World War I looms. Baseball takes a back seat to early auto racing and oil-fueled modernity explodes. Love struggles with lust. A cavalry troop collides with an army truck. Here, Trabish has more than tragedy in mind. His lonely, confused young protagonist moves through the horrible destruction of the Romanian oilfields only to suffer worse and worse horrors, until--unexpectedly--he finds something, something a reviewer cannot reveal. Finally, the question of oil must be settled, so the oil industry comes back into the story in a way that is beyond good and bad, beyond melodrama and tragedy.
Along the way, Trabish gives readers a greater awareness of oil and how we became addicted to it. Awareness, Paul Roberts said in THE END OF OIL, "...may be the first tentative step toward building a more sustainable energy economy. Or it may simply mean that when our energy system does begin to fail, and we begin to lose everything that energy once supplied, we won't be so surprised."
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