NewEnergyNews: 08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009

NewEnergyNews

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

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

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

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

  • Weekend Video: The Ocean Speaks Out
  • Weekend Video: Adapting To The Inevitable
  • Weekend Video: The Joy Of Driving EVs Powered By The Sun
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-HOTTEST SEPTEMBER EVER; WORLD’S HOTTEST MONTHS STREAK AT SIX
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-EU WIND BEATS FOSSIL, NUKE ENERGY PRICES
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-DESERTEC SUCCUMBS TO MIDEAST TURMOIL
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-JAPAN UPS PUSH FOR GEOTHERMAL
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Oct. 16:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE MILITARY FALLS FOR THE HOAX
  • TTTA Thursday-FORTUNE 100 BUSINESSES BOOST SUN
  • TTTA Thursday-IOWA UTILITY BUYS WIND TO CUT COSTS
  • TTTA Thursday-GETTING ENERGY EFFICIENCY FROM THE CLOUD
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: NEW ENERGY BECOMES PRICE COMPETITIVE
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 15: NEW NUMBERS SHOW BIG OCEAN WIND POWER; SOLAR TURNS IN A NEW DIRECTION; FUEL CELL MARKETS TO VARY, GROW
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

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

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

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

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

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

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

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

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

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

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

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

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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  • Monday, August 31, 2009

    From April 27, SCIENTISTS WARNED BUSINESS ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE BUT BUSINESS CHOSE PROFITS

    Update: This has to be one of the most important overlooked stories of the year. When Al Gore and former leading Republican Senator John Warner appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in April they both implored the Committee to pass the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill that, having passed, will soon be debated in the Senate. Nobel laureate and former Vice President Gore then stressed the importance of this story, calling the cover-up a “massive fraud” and calling on the perpetrators to apologize to the nation.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Gu6iWR_PMQ




    Industry Ignored Its Scientists on Climate
    Andrew C. Revkin, April 23, 2009 (NY Times)

    SUMMARY
    The Global Climate Coalition (GCC) was employed from 1989 to 2002 as a front group for fossil fuel-consuming industries to argue against the reality of global climate change.

    According to documents obtained by the NY Times, science and technical advisors to the GCC made it clear to them their arguments were inaccurate and the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) and global climate change was real.

    GCC nevertheless proceeded to run a multimillion dollar PR campaign denying the validity of ongoing scientific documentation of climate change and its human-generated GhG cause. The effect was to slow the completion of the Kyoto treaty, sway public opinion against it and make it politically impossible for the U.S. to sign onto Kyoto or take any other substantive actions against climate change.

    GCC was funded by oil, coal and car companies and trade groups. Its budget in 1997, the same year the Kyoto Protocol was completed, was $1.68 million.

    Lingering doubt about the validity of the science done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the panel of scientists created by the United Nations (UN) to assimilate information and render conclusions about global climate change, is a tribute to the effectiveness of GCC’s PR campaign.

    click to enlarge

    GCC capitalized on the media’s inclination to offer opposing points of view. To every substantive scientific presentation on climate change, GCC obtained the opportunity to present its unscientific and unsubstantiated propaganda as a self-legitimating counterpoint.

    William O’Keefe, an American Petroleum Institute executive and Chairman of GCC in the 1990s, continues to contend they were unaware of scientific information contradicting their work and that questioning the science was a legitimate exercise in questioning incomplete information.

    GCC was dissolved in 2002. Some members (the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute) continue to work against climate change legislation and U.S. participation in international agreements to cut emissions. Others (Exxon Mobil) now ostensibly recognize anthropomorphic global climate change and claim to not fund such lobbying efforts.

    The new evidence condemning GCC as a knowing participant in a fraudulent deception came out in a classic example of the law of unintended consequences. GCC's science advisory committee paper, containing the scientific information that was ignored and suppressed, thereby proving GCC's malicious intent, emerged as evidence in a 2007 lawsuit brought by the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, a GCC member, to block California’s efforts to limit vehicle GhGs.

    Leonard S. Bernstein, a chemical engineer and climate expert then with Mobil Corp led the GCC science advisory committee and presented the paper to GCC's board that warned against using "contrarian" arguments discounting the relationship between climate change and human GhG spew.

    The legal documentation was passed to environmental groups by an attorney in the lawsuit and passed to the NY Times by the environmental groups.

    GCC approved the science advisory committee paper in 1996 after forcing the removal of the parts most contradictory to GCC's propaganda.

    More details on GCC are available from SourceWatch.

    More about how public opinion on climate change has been shaped. From greenman3610 via YouTube.

    COMMENTARY
    There is no doubt that climate change deniers must be vigilantly confronted. That is their only real intent. In the long run, their lies will inevitably be exposed but the noise they make is a terrible distraction that divides and – most importantly – delays response to global climate change.

    The businesses that employed GCC – and continue to employ other front groups and pay politicians to continue to distract, divide and delay – profit by billions for every year that crackdowns on GhG emissions are not aggressively pursued.

    Lies, sweet, sweet lies. (click to enlarge)

    GCC tactics have been compared to the tobacco industry's denials that smoking was the cause of lung cancer and heart disease. The lies have been exposed but the tobacco industry bought itself decades of sales, the opportunity to create an addiction to smoking in a next generation and time to prepare for a shift of its business to international markets.

    GCC was employed as a direct response to the formation of the United Nations' International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Funders included Amoco, the American Forest & Paper Association, American Petroleum Institute, Chevron, Chrysler, Cyprus AMAX Minerals, Exxon, Ford, General Motors, Shell Oil, Texaco, the United States Chamber of Commerce and many more. (See SourceWatch)

    The GCC arguments now seem specious as the Obama administration leads a new movement in the U.S. to respond to climate change, create a national standard for New Energy and commit to an emissions reduction regime.

    William O’Keefe did not go back to the American Petroleum Institute after leaving the chairmanship of GCC but became CEO of the Marshall Institute. Marshall, not surprisingly, opposes mandatory caps on GhGs.

    click to enlarge

    Benjamin D. Santer was a climate scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and part of the IPCC effort in the 1990s. The fight to be heard over GCC’s propaganda compromised his ability to make heard his conclusion that there was evidence even then of human influence on the climate.

    QUOTES
    - GCC 1990s science propaganda: “The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood…scientists differ[on it]…”
    - GCC science advisors internal report to propaganda writers: “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied…”
    - George Monbiot, British environmental activist/writer: “They didn’t have to win the argument to succeed…only to cause as much confusion as possible.”

    Some former GCC people are still denying climate change. (click to enlarge)

    - From the GCC scientific advisory committee primer on climate change: “The contrarian theories raise interesting questions about our total understanding of climate processes, but they do not offer convincing arguments against the conventional model of greenhouse gas emission-induced climate change…”
    - Minutes from the GCC meeting approving the abridged science advisory committee primer on climate change: “This idea was accepted…and that portion of the paper will be dropped.”

    It's not about lying, it's about obscuring the truth. (click to enlarge)

    - William O’Keefe, CEO, Marshall Institute: “I have no idea why the section [of GCC’s science advisory committee primer on climate change] on the contrarians would have been deleted…One thing I’m absolutely certain of,” he said, “is that no member of the board of the Global Climate Coalition said, ‘We have to suppress this.’ ”
    - Benjamin D. Santer, climate scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: “I’m amazed and astonished…that the Global Climate Coalition had in their possession scientific information that substantiated our cautious findings and then chose to suppress that information.”

    MORE NEWS, 8-31: POLL SHOWS U.S. BACKS PRES ON NEW ENERGY/CLIMATE; CALIF TO STORE WIND; TYPES OF SUN - PV V. CSP; EU LAW NAILS EMISS’NS TRADE SCAMS

    POLL SHOWS U.S. BACKS PRES ON NEW ENERGY/CLIMATE
    Poll: Energy Policy has Support But Jobs and Cost are Crucial; ABC News-Washington Post Poll: 57 Percent Support Energy Reform
    Peyton M. Craighill and Gary Langer, August 28, 2009 (ABC News)

    "Support for fossil fuel plants is down, support for nuclear power is up (though with a strong not-in-my-back-yard component) and hopes are reasonably high that a new U.S. energy policy will create jobs and help address global warming - albeit at some cost.

    "A substantial 41 percent of Americans in
    this ABC News/Washington Post poll think proposed changes being developed by Congress and the Obama administration will raise their energy costs. Yet enough of them back those changes nonetheless to give the effort 57 percent support among all Americans - well higher than support for health care reform, 45 percent…President Obama, likewise, has a 55 percent approval for handling energy policy, compared with his 46 percent approval rating on health care."

    click to enlarge

    "This may be, in part, because energy policy hasn't (yet) withstood the withering debate that's raked health care reform. But there are other reasons: Fifty-two percent of Americans think it'll help address global warming. And by 36 percent to 15 percent they're more apt to think it'll create rather than take away jobs in their state…A cap-and-trade system to control emissions gets a somewhat tepid 52 percent support. That rises to 58 percent if it works, and costs households $10 a month - but falls to 39 percent support, a new low in ABC/Post polling in the past year, at $25 a month.

    "Price sensitivity is important, and therefore likely to be central to the debate. Among Americans who think an energy policy overhaul will raise their energy costs, 54 percent oppose it - although a perhaps surprising 36 percent are in favor nonetheless. Support rises to 74 percent among those who think it won't impact costs and 88 percent of those who think it'll reduce them."


    click to enlarge

    "Support also is far lower among those who see energy reform as costing jobs, and higher among those who think it'll create them; and higher among those who think it'll help address global warming…[A]lternative energy and conservation continue to be particularly popular, while building power plants and increasing the use of coal are far less so [among both Democrats and Republicans]…[From 2001, there was] an 11-point drop in support for building more fossil-fuel plants…and a smaller 6-point rise in support for more nuclear plants…[and] support for nuclear power drops [among Democrats and Republicans] to 35 percent if the plant would be closer than 50 miles away.

    "…[S]upport [is overwhelming] for developing more solar and wind power (91 percent) and fuel-efficiency standards (85 percent); for electric car technology (82 percent support); and for requiring more energy conservation [far moreso among Democrats] in the commercial sector (78 percent) and by consumers (73 percent)… A vast 79 percent strongly favor solar and wind power, compared with 48 percent for oil and gas drilling, 36 percent for nuclear plants and 33 percent for building more fossil-fuel power stations…"



    CALIFORNIA TO STORE WIND
    PG&E to build plant to store wind energy
    Tracy Seipel, August 27, 2009 (San Jose Mercury News)

    "Already an aggressive investor in renewable energy projects such as solar power, PG&E…is seeking to build its first-ever facility that would pump compressed air into an underground cavern, using mainly wind energy produced during nonpeak hours, and release it to generate electricity during periods of peak demand.

    "The 300-megawatt facility, to be built in Kern County, is projected to cost $356 million and take five years to design and build…[PG&E has] filed for $25 million in federal funding to be used for initial analysis and design costs…"


    Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) has been long contemplated and pilot projects have been tried but it has never been economically accomplished. (click to enlarge)

    "…[T]he facility would use mainly off-peak wind energy to power an air compressor and inject compressed air into the ground, then release it to generate electricity during periods of peak demand…Not everyone is convinced it's the optimum investment.

    "The American Wind Energy Association recently released a report on wind power and energy storage that concluded the U.S. was able to add more than 8,500 megawatts of wind power to the grid in 2008 without adding any commercial-scale energy storage…A smart investment for power companies, [the report’s author] said, would be to build more transmission lines and to change the way the power system operates across the U.S. to enable power to flow more easily from region to region…"


    Wind professionals say linking wind installations eliminates the need for storage but advocates say CAES has benefits. (click to enlarge)

    "…PG&E disagrees…because the utility doesn't believe that so much energy transmission can be built quickly…[T]he state's Independent System Operator, which manages the state's energy grid, supports the Kern County project to help California's grid.

    "California requires the state's investor-owned utilities to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2010. PG&E said it currently has renewable energy contracts that represent more than 20 percent of their customers' future needs."



    TYPES OF SUN - PV V. CSP
    CSP and photovoltaic solar power
    Tom Pfeiffer and Sara Ledwith, August 23, 2009 (Reuters)

    "Desertec, a 400 billion euro plan to [build solar power plants in North Africa and a trans-Mediterranean transmission system to] power Europe with sunlight from the Sahara, is the world's most ambitious solar power project and would be a major example of concentrated solar power (CSP) technology.

    "CSP, which uses mirrors rather than solar cells to generate electricity, has been used in California since the 1980s. Solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems, which have been developed particularly in Germany, are more established and faster growing…Grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) is the fastest growing power generation technology, with a 70 percent increase in existing capacity in 2008…At end-2008 there was 13 GW of generating capacity in PV systems connected to grids, compared with just 0.5 GW for CSP overall worldwide."


    click to enlarge

    "…Efficiency gains and improving technology have encouraged companies such as Spain's Abengoa Solar to push CSP as a credible rival to solar PV…According to the German Aerospace Center, CSP is likely to become competitive with world market prices of most fossil fuels by 2015. Until then, utilities are likely to need feed-in tariffs offering them a guaranteed price above market rates.

    "…New CSP projects are under contract in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico in the United States and under development in Abu Dhabi, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. A growing number of these future CSP plants will include thermal storage to allow operation into the evening hours."


    Types of CSP plants. (click to enlarge)

    "…The cost of CSP-generated electricity at 12 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour will halve by 2015 to a level similar to gas and coal power today, excluding carbon penalties on those hydrocarbon fuels, according to…Desertec-Australia…CSP's backers predict it will become the cheapest power source for energy-hungry desalination plants that remove the salt from sea water for drinking and growing crops…

    "…The Desertec Industrial Initiative [includes]…Swiss engineering group ABB, a specialist in high-voltage, direct-current transmission grids…German engineering conglomerate Siemens…Spanish engineering firm Abengoa, whose solar power arm is building CSP installations in Spain, Morocco and Algeria…Algerian food group Cevital…Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest bank…German [utilities] E.ON…[and] RWE…German state-owned bank HSH Nordbank…[Germany’s] MAN Solar Millenniun, a joint [engineering and CSP] venture…German reinsurance company Munich Re…[Germany’s] M&W Zander…German solar panel maker Schott Solar..."



    EU LAW NAILS EMISSIONS TRADE SCAMMERS, Part 2
    Climate change campaign creates carbon crimes; Fraudulent Permit Trading Surfaces In Europe
    Arthur Max, August 23, 2009 (AP via San Diego North County Times)

    (For Part 1, see yesterday’s SUNDAY WORLD)
    "Customs agents…arrested nine people in the London area suspected of a multimillion dollar fraud in trading carbon permits, bringing attention to a rich new field for crime sprung from the fight against climate change…[and confirming] fears among law enforcement officers that swindlers ---- operating from the trading floors of Europe to the tropical forests of the Pacific ---- are being attracted to a market that has grown to more than $100 billion.

    "…[Familiar scams are being used in the emissions permit trade]…A different set of problems threaten the trade in credits derived from halting deforestation…Forests store vast amounts of carbon, and release it when trees are cut or burned. Scientists say deforestation contributes about 20 percent of all the carbon leeching into the atmosphere."


    click to enlarge

    "By measuring the amount of carbon held in a forested area, a value can be placed on that carbon and owners can be compensated for preserving them. Carbon offsets, purchased by airline passengers or concert-goers who voluntarily want to cut their carbon footprint or big corporations that need to meet emissions targets, buy the credits from the forest owner…But shady brokers…persuade landowners, especially forest dwellers with little understanding of modern commerce, to sell a share of the rights to the carbon stored in their trees, counting on a hefty profits later…

    "In July, the head of Papua New Guinea's Office of Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability, Theo Yasause, was suspended pending an investigation for allegedly issuing some 40 tons of carbon credits for preventing deforestation. Such credits do not yet exist for governments to sell since there is no mechanism in place to measure and verify that forests are being preserved."


    click to enlarge

    "U.N. talks aimed at a new global warming agreement in Copenhagen are seeking ways to scale up efforts to avoid deforestation to make it worthwhile for governments like Brazil or Papua New Guinea to save their rapidly depleting rain forests…Negotiators are working on ways to verify that logging trends have been reversed, largely through satellite imagery, and on raising billions of dollars to compensate rain forest countries -- with the carbon market as one possibility…[C]limate negotiators are trying to build safeguards into the Copenhagen climate agreement to limit the opportunity for criminals. Chief among them is postponing any payment for avoiding deforestation until inspectors verify that tree-cutting trends had been reversed.

    "Peter Younger, the Interpol officer who deals with environmental crime and wildlife smuggling, says illegal logging and tax fraud is bound to grow as the market expands…"

    Sunday, August 30, 2009

    From SUNDAY WORLD April 26, WORLD WATCHING, WAITING FOR COPENHAGEN LEADERSHIP

    Update: Everything was hanging in the balance in April and, though the House has acted, the Senate’s questionable willingness to act leaves everything hanging in the balance still. Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), powerful Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and co-author of the House’s energy and climate bill, said in a press conference August 21 that he is confident the Senate will move.

    IF that happens, the President can go to Copenhagen with proof of the U.S. commitment to the fight against global climate change. But, meaning no disrespect to Mr. Waxman, that is still a very big IF.

    Reports emerging from preliminary U.N. meetings preparatory to the Copenhagen summit suggest that without U.S. leadership, the new global deal is as doubtful as this post suggests.


    U.S. to take reins in global climate talks next week
    Jeff Mason (w/Deborah Zabarenko and Eric Walsh), 24 April 2009 (Thomson Reuters)
    and
    Climate talks depend on U.S. law – top envoy
    Jeff Mason and Deborah Zabarenko (w/Arshad Mohammed, Sue Pleming, Richard Cowan, John O'Callaghan and Todd Eastham), 23 April 2009 (Thomson Reuters)
    and
    Industrialised nations’ greenhouse gas emissions rise in 2007
    Michael Szabo and Alister Doyle (w/William Hardy), 23 April 2009 (Thomson Reuters)

    SUMMARY
    The world’s ability to reach agreement on how to move forward in the fight against gobal climate change, it is widely agreed in international diplomatic circles, hinges on U.S. leadership. And U.S. leadership could ring hollow and flail impotently if the U.S. Congress refuses to pass domestic climate change legislation.

    The international successor agreement to the 1997 Kyoto treaty (which expires in 2012) is expected to be finalized at a world summit in Copenhagen in December. In the last decade, the world has mapped out the climate change fight despite the Bush administration having kept the U.S. absent without leave. Veterans of the effort believe it will take leadership from the Obama administration to complete a potent battle plan.

    The most recent calculations show the industrial world’s cumulative GhG emissions rose 0.9% in 2007. Emissions from signatory nations to the Kyoto agreement were up only 0.1%, mainly from increases in Canada and Japan (which did not meet their reduction commitments). Led by ambitious national standards and a cap&trade system, EU nations cumulatively reduced emissions 1.4%, with Germany’s 2.4% cut leading. Emissions of non-participants in the Kyoto accord (Examples – Turkey, up 12%, the U.S., up 1.4%) were significantly higher.

    Todd Stern will be the Obama administration’s lead negotiator on climate matters.

    In an effort to get negotiations started and assume a lead role in the process leading to the Copenhagen summit, the Obama administration has called a meeting for April 27-28 in Denmark among the world’s 16 major economies.

    The Big Board of emissions trading. (click to enlarge)

    Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and the United States will attend. Denmark, as host, will also be present.

    The 27 member states of the European Union have committed to greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) reductions of 20% by 2020 and have expressed a willingness to commit to 30% if the U.S. and the emerging economies will commit to reductions.

    The obstacle to reaching effective agreement is the willingness of China, India and other emerging nations to take on commitments to GhG reductions that might slow their economies.

    The Bush administration was unwilling to commit the U.S. to emissions reductions without a commitment from China and India. Because it did not foresee such a commitment, the Bush administration predicted U.S. GhGs would not stop growing before 2025.

    President Obama is pressing Congress to legislate a commitment to a 15% GhG reduction by 2020 through a U.S.-based cap&trade system. The legislation is expected to win approval by a significant majority in the House of Representatives but may not reach the 60-vote threshold to win passage in the Senate.

    One possibility is that the Obama adminstration can negotiate with its Republican opponents on the percentage of allowances auctioned or on the exact reductions targets. Its attitude toward such a negotiation was expressed by Secretary of Energy and Nobel laureate Steven Chu when he said it is at present more important to begin the process of reducing emissions than to take a strong position about a few percentage points of anything.

    The many markets that trade EUAs. (click to enlarge)

    COMMENTARY
    At a conference in California on Earth Day, former U.S. President Bill Clinton confided to the audience that he could foresee international negotiations on climate change collapsing into impotence if the U.S. does not take the leadership by passing its own cap&trade legislation and using the resultant leverage to shoulder China into the new agreement.

    The most recent (2007) emissions data, Part 1. (click to enlarge)

    The organization of 16 major economies to work out climate change issues was the invention of the Bush administration. It was viewed in the international community, as used under Mr. Bush, to be a way around substantive climate change negotiations. Bush administration representatives continue to assert their commitment to the process was real. UN diplomats are hopeful the Obama administration will use the upcoming meetings of the 16 major economies to make real progress toward Copenhagen.

    U.S. conservatives have ignorantly attacked the market-based cap&trade concept. Instead of making an effort to understand it, they have labeled it the biggest government giveaway in U.S. history, the biggest, most complicated tax in U.S. history, corporate welfare, Wall Street welfare and just plain welfare.

    Carefully nurtured since 2005 by the EU in its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), cap&trade puts a limit (cap) on GhGs allowed to power companies, utilities and industries. Allowances to emit (European Union Allowances, EUAs) are auctioned to them. A market (the ETS) facilitates the sale of the EUAs by companies that can do business below their capped emissions (through the use of New Energy and Energy Efficiency) and the purchase of EUAs to companies that exceed their caps. Investors can also speculate in the market.

    The most recent (2007) emissions data, Part 2. (click to enlarge)

    Although a cap&trade system does drive power prices up, the auction of allowances also generates revenues that are returned to utility ratepayers in the form of tax cuts and other benefits to offset their expenses. Another portion of the auction revenues goes toward the building of New Energy and Energy Efficiency infrastructure. The result is a shift of the cost for GhGs to the major emitters.

    In Al Gore’s recent testimony to Congress, he said that China’s position with regard to GhGs is significantly different than India’s position. China recently became the biggest GhG emitter in the world, has already made a strong domestic commitment to emissions reductions and the building of New Energy and has begun to do so. India’s emissions remain relatively small and its willingness to commit to reductions or New Energy targets remains tentative but bringing it into the international agreement right now is not so urgent.

    Their roles in the climate treaty negotiation will therefore be significantly different. Gore says he firmly believes China will participate if the U.S. demonstrates leadership.

    The most recent (2007) emissions data, Part 3. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Todd Stern, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change: "We are going to fundamentally be guided by what happens in our own legislative process…I don't think [getting climate change legislation through the Senate is] too insurmountable…"
    - Stern, on EU and U.S. emissions reductions targets: "The EU puts out a number that is an overall target for everything that contributes to emissions reductions, so there may be other things that contribute to emissions reductions in the United States that aren't part of that ... bill…"
    - Stern, on the major economies meeting: "The Bush administration obviously had a completely different approach to this issue than we do…They were not fundamentally looking for an international agreement…We are looking for an international agreement and we're looking for cooperation at a significant, we hope, transformative level."
    - James Connaughton, former top environmental adviser, Bush administration: "The point of [the meetings of the 16 major economies] was to be able to inform and help accelerate progress in the UN…"
    - David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel, Sierra Club: "Nobody took him seriously because he spent eight years pretending climate change didn't exist…Obama, on the other hand, obviously is taking climate change very, very seriously and wants, reasonably enough, to talk to everyone about what to do ahead of Copenhagen."
    - Annie Petsonk, international counsel, Environmental Defense Fund. "The presence of the major economies forum increases our chances of success for getting an agreement at Copenhagen…The more that those countries can come together around a framework, the greater likelihood that they can pour that into a larger agreement."

    Paranoiac spew of fear of cap&trade from the conservative side. From climatebrad via YouTube.

    - Stern, on his attitude toward the emerging economies: "The major developing countries need to do significant things, need to make real commitments…There is no other way to solve this problem…What we want to do is to invigorate this forum and to infuse it with a mission and with substance…We cannot any longer be in a position where there is ... a notion that the major developing countries don't need to make commitments in the context of an international treaty…They do."
    - Kim Carstensen, head, WWF Global Climate Initiative: "We do not see the most vulnerable countries included in these discussions and that is what we would like to see…"
    - Stern, on the role of China in the upcoming negotiations: "I actually think that the Chinese are very serious about it. They are doing a lot. They're not doing enough, but they're doing a lot…Their emissions trajectory is huge and at an unsustainable level…"
    - Knut Alfsen, research director, Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research: "The numbers are ... a bit depressing…It shows that we are not able to de-link economic growth from emissions."
    - Barry Brook, climate change professor, University of Adelaide: "The Chinese and Indian economies, for instance, are not contracting -- they're just not growing as fast. It would take a massive and sustained global recession to noticeably curb emissions growth without directed energy policy…"

    MORE SUNDAY WORLD, 8-30: CHINA AHEAD IN SUN RACE; EU LAW NAILS CO2 SCAMMERS; QUESTIONS ON EU-SAHARA SUN SHARE; AUSSIES COMMITTED TO CAP&TRADE

    CHINA AHEAD IN SUN RACE
    China Racing Ahead of U.S. in the Drive to Go Solar
    Keith Bradsher, August 24, 2009 (NY Times)

    "…China that has stepped on the gas in an effort to become the dominant player in green energy — especially in solar power…Chinese companies have already played a leading role in pushing down the price of solar panels by almost half over the last year. Shi Zhengrong, the chief executive and founder of China’s biggest solar panel manufacturer, Suntech Power Holdings, said…[his company] is selling solar panels on the American market for less than the cost of the materials, assembly and shipping [to build market share].

    "Backed by lavish government support, the Chinese are preparing to build plants to assemble their products in the United States to bypass protectionist legislation…[and working] to tamp down anti-Chinese sentiment before it takes root."


    click to enlarge

    "The Obama administration is determined to help the American industry…[most recently with] $2.3 billion in tax credits to clean energy equipment manufacturers. But…Western companies may have fragile prospects when competing with Chinese companies that have cheap loans, electricity and labor, paying recent college graduates in engineering $7,000 a year…[and] governments at the national, provincial and even local level…[that] offer solar companies ever more generous subsidies, including free land, and cash for research and development. State-owned banks are flooding the industry with loans at considerably lower interest rates than available in Europe or the United States.

    "…[Suntech] is on track this year to pass Q-Cells of Germany, to become the world’s second-largest supplier of photovoltaic cells… behind only First Solar in Tempe, Ariz…[A] growing list of Chinese corporations backed by entrepreneurs, local governments and even the Chinese military [is] seeking to capitalize on an industry deemed crucial by China’s top leadership…"


    click to enlarge

    "China’s commitment to solar energy is unlikely to make a difference soon to global warming. China’s energy consumption is growing faster than any other country’s, though the United States consumes more today. Beijing’s aim is to generate 20,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2020 — or less than half the capacity of coal-fired power plants that are built in China each year…Solar energy remains far more expensive…than energy from coal, oil, natural gas or even wind. But in addition to heavy Chinese investment and low Chinese costs, the global economic downturn and a decline in European subsidies to buy panels have lowered prices.

    "…[Suntech] will build a solar panel assembly plant in the United States…Yingli Solar, another large Chinese manufacturer…[also plans] to assemble panels in the United States…Western rivals (Germany’s Q-Cells, Conergy and SolarWorld), meanwhile, are struggling… because of declining sales…[But resistance] to Chinese exports could be difficult, particularly as [1] Chinese discounting makes green energy more affordable…[2] First Solar…the solar leader… using a different technology…is actually profitable…[3] [Suntech] executives at its United States operations…[hold] the top posts at the two main American industry groups…[and, 4] almost 98 percent of Suntech’s production goes overseas."



    EU LAW NAILS EMISSIONS TRADE SCAMMERS, Part 1
    Climate change campaign creates carbon crimes; Fraudulent Permit Trading Surfaces In Europe
    Arthur Max, August 23, 2009 (AP via San Diego North County Times)

    "Customs agents…arrested nine people in the London area suspected of a multimillion dollar fraud in trading carbon permits, bringing attention to a rich new field for crime sprung from the fight against climate change…[and confirming] fears among law enforcement officers that swindlers ---- operating from the trading floors of Europe to the tropical forests of the Pacific ---- are being attracted to a market that has grown to more than $100 billion.

    "…[Carbon dioxide (CO2) is]… a pollutant derived from fossil fuels…[is regulated by] making permission to produce it a commodity that can be traded like gold, oil or hog futures…Trade in CO2 permits has expanded exponentially since the European Union required thousands of industries to limit carbon emissions to specified targets. Industries exceeding their ceiling can buy credits from companies that have held their emissions below target, acting through commodities exchanges. The average price this year for a ton of carbon is about $15…"


    The carousel fraud diagrammed. (click to enlarge)

    "That carbon market will get a lot bigger if the U.S. Congress passes its own cap-and-trade bill…And it will grow bigger still if a new international climate change agreement will include financial incentives for countries to protect their forests. Negotiators from 192 countries hope to conclude a global warming accord at a major U.N. conference in Copenhagen in December.

    "…130 British customs agents raided 27 properties in and around London for evidence of a "carousel fraud" believed to have robbed the treasury of 38 million pounds ($63 million) in unpaid value-added tax. Seven men and two women were arrested and released on bail…[I]t was the first time the scam has been uncovered in the carbon market, expanding from the more established trade in mobile phones and computer chips…The carousel fraud, also known as a missing trader scheme, exploits VAT-free commerce between countries. Conspirators import goods free of tax, sell it domestically with VAT to another company, which exports the products to third country. Rather than pay the VAT owed to the government, the merchants pocket the tax and disappear."


    The carousel fraud explained. (click to enlarge)

    "In July, France, the Netherlands and Britain initiated action to pre-empt the swindlers. France and Britain set a zero VAT rate for carbon trading, while Holland transferred the obligation to pay VAT from the seller to the buyer…The British Treasury also warned last month that Britain would become a major target of tax theft in carbon emissions permits in the next few months…[S]uspicions of VAT fraud surfaced last May when the volume of carbon trade rose on the Paris BlueNext exchange from 27.2 million tons in October, spiking six months later at 186 million tons…[BlueNext] said the risk of fraud can be high in any new commodities market, and CO2 is no different in the need for high regulatory standards.

    "When the carbon market was getting started, big companies were involved and the traders knew each other.. But it has grown so fast that small unknown operators are now doing big business, making self-policing more difficult…"
    (Part 2 will be in MORE NEWS on Monday)



    QUESTIONS ON EU-SAHARA SUN SHARE
    Europe's Saharan power plan: miracle or mirage?
    Tom Pfeiffer (w/Erik Kirschbaum, Christoph Steitz, Jonathan Gould, Hamid Ould Ahmed, Gerard Wynn and Sara Ledwith), August 23, 2009 (Reuters)

    "Desertec…[a 400 billion euro ($774 billion) plan to power Europe with Sahara sunlight and] the world's most ambitious solar power project [is gaining momentum, even as critics see high risks in a large corporate project using young technology in north African countries with weak rule of law]. Fields of mirrors in the desert would gather solar rays to boil water, turning turbines to electrify a new carbon-free network linking Europe, the Middle East and North Africa…[A] dozen [mostly German] finance and industrial firms…say it will keep Europe at the forefront of the fight against climate change and help North African and European economies to grow…

    "Others warn of numerous pitfalls, including Maghreb politics, Saharan sandstorms and the risk to desert populations if their water is diverted to clean dust off solar mirrors…[and] say the concentrated solar power (CSP) technology behind Desertec involves greater costs and risks than the fast-growing patchwork of smaller-scale photovoltaic [PV] cell installations that generate most of Europe's solar energy today."


    click to enlarge

    "Desertec's founders are lured by the fact that more energy falls on the world's deserts in six hours than the world consumes in a year…Proposed by the Club of Rome, an international group of experts that suggests solutions to global problems, Desertec became an industrial project last month when reinsurer Munich Re hosted its launch…They have yet to draw up a business plan or specify how it will be funded but hope to recruit shareholders and partner companies from a variety of countries.

    "Desertec officials say the Sahara could one day deliver 15 percent of Europe's electricity…[It will] advance in small stages with completion not before 2050…[but will be a positive gesture from the developed world to countries of the Middle East and North Africa, which stand to suffer most from the more frequent droughts and desertification blamed on global warming]…"


    click to enlarge

    "Supporters of…[PV solar] argue decentralized generation will prove more popular as falling prices make the heavy infrastructure needed for CSP unviable…[and say] producing renewable energy within their own borders [is a better choice. German solar energy visionary Hermann] Scheer said the costs of Desertec were being downplayed artificially and its technical capabilities over-estimated…Desertec would need 20 or more efficient, direct-current cables each costing up to $1 billion to transmit electricity north beneath the Mediterranean…

    "Southern countries that import most of their energy like Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan would also benefit from Desertec…Morocco buys in 96 percent of its energy…a massive drain on state resources…The Moroccan government says Desertec could solve Morocco's energy dependency…Among hazards facing the scheme are the fact that Desertec would need tight coordination between governments to succeed, yet Maghreb states have tried and failed for two decades to integrate their economies and deepen political ties…Analysts play down the risk to Desertec's infrastructure posed by Al Qaeda-aligned rebels…[and agree] security risks can be managed, but the project could become entangled in broader talks between the EU and north Africa on energy, investment and trade."



    AUSSIES COMMITTED TO CAP&TRADE
    Despite Defeat, Australian Government Vows to Move Ahead With Emissions Legislation
    Phil Mercer, 20 August 2009 (Voice of America)

    "Australia's government promises to push through a sweeping carbon emissions trading system despite a parliamentary defeat. The plan would require the country's biggest polluters to buy permits for emitting carbon dioxide. Government ministers want the legislation to be passed before United Nations climate change talks in December.

    "The Australian government has proposed what some say is the world's most ambitious carbon trading program. It would force the country's 1,000 worst polluters to buy carbon dioxide permits and would cover about 75 percent of emissions. The aim is to curb greenhouse gas pollution by between five and 25 percent by 2020."


    Austraia's initial targets are low but grow to world class levels over time. (click to enlarge)

    "The plan needs the approval of Australia's upper house of parliament, the Senate. A recent vote, however, saw the plan defeated by an unusual alliance of Greens, who think the program does not go far enough to protect the environment, and conservative lawmakers, who say it will damage industry and cost jobs…Undeterred, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong says the government will try again [before December]…

    "Conservative [Senate] politicians think that Australian businesses, especially the dominant resources sector, will lose their competitive edge under the government's carbon trading program…[The government rejected their proposal but there] is hope that a compromise can be reached…[They] have struck a deal to approve the part of the climate legislation that sets renewable energy targets…[requiring] 20 percent of Australia's power supply [to] come from renewable sources by 2020. But…[the] contentious legislation covering carbon trading… still divides Australia…[and] could trigger an early election."


    Australia is serious about New Energy. (click to enlarge)

    "…[Australia] relies heavily on coal to generate electricity…The mining industry is spending vast amounts to find ways to produce coal that burns more cleanly…[Some scientists say] storing carbon emissions deep underground is one way forward…Australia, one of the world's worst per capita emitters of greenhouse gases [and highly vulnerable to climate change], also is pursuing a renewable energy options, including wind, solar, geothermal and tidal power…

    "…[C]limate change skeptics say that warming temperatures are part of a natural cycle and are not influenced by man's use of fossils fuels. The majority of Australians disagree and want their political leaders to take a decisive stand against global warming that many believe has the potential to inflict more severe damage."

    Saturday, August 29, 2009

    The Earth Story

    A short history of modern humans, this is a charming animation with a serious payoff. From teri via YouTube.

    Interviews With EnergyCitizens

    EnergyCitizens, ostensibly a “grassroots” movement but actually shills bused in and paid by the oil industry, reveal their ignorance of the issues they are at the rally to protest about. And there are a couple of other interesting voices. From PublicCitizenInc via YouTube

    How To Get The Guy

    This one’s for the Cosmopolitan and Seventeen crowds. This is the secret to getting the guy you want. Apply the practices you see in this video and he surely will be yours. From eutube via YouTube

    Friday, August 28, 2009

    COAL CAUGHT LYING AGAIN!

    New "Grassroots" Pro-Coal Group backed by K-Street PR Firm
    Jim Hoggan, August 25, 2009 ( DeSmogBlog)

    "The Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security [FACES], the latest 'grassroots' organization to join the public conversation on behalf of the coal industry, appears to be a project of the K-Street public relations firm, the Adfero Group, one of industry's most accommodating voices in Washington, D.C.

    "The FACES website, which includes no contact information, is [surreptitiously associated with] Adfero…FACES describes itself as "an alliance of people from all walks of life who are joining forces to educate lawmakers and the general public about the importance of coal and coal mining." But Adfero's client list includes Koch Industries and the US Chamber of Commerce, two leaders in the fight to confuse, distort and deny the science of climate change - and especially to block government action that might affect their bottom line."


    FACES wants us to believe this is an Appalachian florist who likes the coal industry. (click to enlarge)
    They actually got her picture from an on-line picture service. (click to enlarge)

    "FACES' coming-out press release claimed the new group consists of…a broad cross-section of people and communities throughout the Appalachian region…But Adfero doesn't specialize in spontaneous public advocacy. It specializes in crafting a "custom-tailored message" and then recruiting "key contacts" who can slam that message home…"

    FACES suggests these are everyday Appalachians who support coal. (click to enlarge)
    It's a for-sale photo. (click to enlarge)

    "…[Like] the recent manipulations on health care, there has been an unprecedented amount of astroturfing by the oil and coal lobby lately. And there is no reason to believe this is anything but. Certainly Adfero hasn't responded to our numerous inquiries with an alternative explanation…[S]omeone is paying…[I]t's time Washington created a legal requirement for these groups to come clean on their funding. The American people deserve to know who's really behind this campaign.

    "Phony Astroturf groups manipulate democracy in a way that is pointedly dishonest. They work to convince legislators that "people from all walks of life" - also known as "voters" - are fired up about an issue, when in fact the voters in question are the kind of people Eugene McCarthy used to call "provocateurs," taking money from industry to pretend to hold a particular opinion. It's a practice that should stop…"

    WHO’S AGAINST SUN? UTILITIES?

    Taking a Dim View of Solar Energy; Who could possibly be against homeowners using solar panels to power their homes? Utility companies.
    Matthew Phillips, August 25, 2009 (Newsweek)

    "…[T]he rooftop-solar industry is booming, as Americans become increasingly intrigued by the idea of turning their roofs into mini power plants and cutting their electric bills. In 2008, 33,500 rooftop solar systems were installed in the United States, a 63 percent increase over the amount of capacity installed in 2007. In California, the solar capital of country, the increase was 95 percent.

    "…[T]he outlook for the other side of the solar industry—the large, centralized power plants—isn't so sunny…[M]egaprojects…sending electricity through transmission lines…controlled mostly by utility companies that have had a monopoly over the country’s electricity grid since the turn of the last century, were supposed to be the key to the future of the solar industry…[but in 2006-thru-08] consumers added 522 megawatts to the grid; whereas utility generated sites added just 96 megawatts."


    It could be this story's reporter missed some of the facts. (From the Solar Electric Power Association - click to enlarge)

    "The disparity has utilities worried about loosing their grip on the country's energy industry, and the $130 billion residential electricity market. In some cases, utilities are actually taking direct steps to thwart rooftop solar. Two weeks ago in Colorado, the state's biggest utility, Xcel, tried passing a surcharge on homes and businesses using rooftop solar power. The rate hike would've generated $180 million, $55 million of which was slated to help fund Xcel's newest coal-fired power plant, the Comanche Unit 3, due to come online this fall. The public went ballistic, and with pressure from Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, the proposal was eventually shelved. In early July, New Mexico's biggest utility, PNM, filed an official request to dramatically reduce incentives for businesses and homeowners to install solar panels, and is now fighting with state lawmakers over whether it has the right to exclusively own solar panels systems hooked up to its grid. During California's last legislative session, Southern California Edison, which serves 13 million residents, pressured a Palm Springs assemblyman to pull a bill he'd introduced that would allow the city of Palm Desert to pay solar users for the excess power they generate…

    "It's not hard to understand why a big utility might not like the idea of homes, businesses, schools, and even government buildings being covered in solar panels. If every building in America is generating its own solar energy, that throws a big wrench into their business model. It's why utilities have historically been opposed to solar power, say solar's advocates. But as most states have passed renewable-energy standards recently, mandating that a certain percentage of their energy come from renewable sources, utilities have become reluctant players…[T]hey have no choice. Rather than get on board with rooftop solar, though, utilities decided to do what they do best: build a centralized system of large power plants, and make money by charging customers for taking power off the grid. While large-scale utility projects do hold the promise of generating massive amounts of electricity, so far they've delivered precious few new sources of electricity, as dozens of proposed projects are languishing in the application process. Building the thousands of miles of new transmission lines these projects require not only costs millions, it's fraught with red tape: zoning and permitting regulations, and issues like eminent domain, as lines are strung across both public and private property."


    Doesn't sound like a hostile attitude, does it? (From the Solar Electric Power Association - click to enlarge)

    "The Energy Policy Act of 2005 called for the addition of 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy on public lands by 2015, much of which was thought to be provided by big solar plants. But four years in, things are barely off the ground. The two biggest solar projects in the U.S., which are both in the Nevada desert and came online in 2007, combine to produce just 78 megawatts, 14 of which are used solely to power Nellis Air Force Base. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says that by 2010, 13 utility projects will be under construction on public land in the Southwest, but that's still years away from generating electricity. California has the country's most aggressive renewable goal, mandating that 20 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by the end of 2010. Lawmakers are now pushing that to 33 percent by 2020. But…None of Southern California's four biggest utilities, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric, Pacific Gas and Electric, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, are on target largely, critics say, because they're too focused on trying to make money off big centralized plants.

    "…[Distributed generation advocates believe] the country's entire renewable portfolio can be achieved through rooftop solar alone. That may be possible from a sheer megawatts perspective, but from a practical standpoint, it's way over-ambitious. With no centralized source, how do you run traffic or street lights? What if it rains for a week? We still don't have foolproof means to store solar power, so for now, distributed generation needs the grid as a backup…[Nevertheless, in] 2008, rooftop solar added more than 10 times the amount of power to the country's grid than utilities did…Sun Edison, the country's biggest installer of solar panels in the retail market, added more electricity to the grid last year, 25 megawatts, than did the entire utility industry. San Francisco-based SunRun has come up with a way to let homeowners make a down payment, usually about $1,500, on what is typically a $30,000 solar-panel system, lock in a below-market fixed rate for their electricity, then use the savings to help pay off the cost of the system…This is all possible thanks to state and federal government subsidies, and the declining cost of producing electricity from solar panels, down to $6 per watt from about $9 per watt in 2006…"

    LAND, LOTS OF LAND, FOR NEW ENERGY

    Study Warns of ‘Energy Sprawl’
    Kate Galbraith, August 26, 2009 (NY Times)

    "…[Energy Sprawl or Energy Efficiency: Climate Policy Impacts on Natural Habitat from] the Nature Conservancy predicts that by 2030, energy production in the United States will occupy a land area larger than Minnesota — in large part owing to the pursuit of domestic clean energy.

    "The authors call it “energy sprawl” — a term meant to draw attention to habitat destruction, and to warn that biofuels in particular will take up substantial amounts of land…The paper looked at several scenarios, including a “base-case” derived from current Energy Information Agency forecasts for the country’s energy mix in 2030, as well as various permutations of efforts to cap greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change."


    From the Nature Conservancy report. (click to enlarge)

    "The study took into account only land impacts in the United States; thus for example the land required to drill for oil in Saudi Arabia, one of the United States’s biggest suppliers, was not considered. Nor was “indirect land use” taken into account. That is the controversial idea that growing soy for fuel in the United States could simply push soy-for-food production to, say, Indonesia, where CO2-sipping forests would then be razed for soy farming.

    "Nuclear power is the most compact in terms of the amount of land taken up per unit of energy, according to the study; coal and geothermal energy also took up relatively small amounts of space. Biodiesel made from soybeans, the burning of energy crops to create electricity, and ethanol production had the highest “sprawl” impact."


    From the Nature Conservancy report. (click to enlarge)

    "Asked about the assertion by some solar advocates that covering a 100-mile by 100-mile square of Nevada desert with solar arrays could power the United States, [the study’s lead author said it was trying to be] realistic about the projected energy mix.

    "As for climate change…[the study’s lead author said] the paper highlights several ways to reduce the sprawl. These include reusing already-developed sights, as well as a flexible cap-and-trade system that allows for the development of new nuclear plants and the sequestration of carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants…But perhaps the most important is energy conservation…"

    NASA TO BUILD GREENEST GOVT BUILDING EVER

    NASA gets ready for new green building
    Mike Swift, August 25, 2009 (San Jose Mercury News)

    "NASA's Ames Research Center is ready to begin construction of what is planned as the greenest building ever built by the federal government, a structure that will use state of the art sensors developed for space missions but also rely on the age-old strategy of opening the window to catch a cool breeze.

    "Christened "Sustainability Base" by NASA in an homage to "Tranquility Base," the site of the first moon landing 40 years ago, the $20.6 million building will begin construction in late September or early October near the gateway to Moffett Field…[It is] expected to open [by early spring of] 2011. It will be used to test green building technologies, and its designers hope that through its energy conservation features, coupled with its own solar and geothermal energy capacity, that it will approach zero net energy consumption."


    From nasaames via YouTube

    "While the new building will use technology developed in space…NASA could also use data gathered through operation of the new building for missions to the moon or Mars…

    "By positioning the building to capture cool breezes from nearby San Francisco Bay and to shade it from the sun through the day, and through "smart" management of its heating and cooling systems, the structure will use a fraction of the energy of a standard office building. But "Sustainability Base" will also generate its own energy through about 20,000 square feet of photovoltaic panels on the roof, and use a network of deep geothermal wells that will dissipate heat in warm weather, and help extract heat from the ground in the winter… [B]ringing as much natural sunlight and clean air into the building as possible will save energy, but also will make the building a better place for people…"


    click to enlarge

    "The building…will be used to test everything from efficient windows to light bulb designs…The building is designed to achieve a Platinum rating under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, and will use 90 percent less potable water than conventional office buildings its size.

    "At night, the building will be able to close itself up and pump cool evening air over its foundation slab, creating a thermal reservoir that will help keep it comfortable during the day — much as historic California adobe homes did…"

    SOLAR PLANT TO ENHANCE OIL OUTPUT

    Chevron building solar-steam plant
    Braden Reddall (w/Phil Berlowitz and Bernard Orr), August 21, 2009 (Reuters)

    "Chevron Corp is building a solar plant…to create the steam that boosts production at an aging California oilfield, in a pioneering project the company aims to replicate elsewhere if it works.

    "Chevron outlined the previously undisclosed plan at a city council meeting in Coalinga, a city halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco that started as a coal outpost, boomed with oil gushers, and is now a potential solar energy hub."


    The Chevron "enhanced oil recovery" concept - except that instead of a emissions-spewing fossil fuel power plant, this one will use emissions-free solar power. (click to enlarge)

    "The second-largest U.S. oil company said the solar thermal plant, which will collect reflected sunlight from thousands of mirrors at a 323-foot (98-meter) tower where the water boils…Steam [now generated by burning natural gas] is injected into wells to heat up heavier oil and thus lower its viscosity to make it easier to extract…[The Coalinga field has had more than 90 percent of its oil extracted since its discovery in 1890, leaving plenty of work for steam injection]…

    "Solar thermal company BrightSource Energy is partnering with Chevron on the project…[Construction will] begin this year [on the 100 acre, 7,000 mirror installation], with production slated to start by the end of 2010…[Although] solar thermal [may] never replace natural gas in steam production, it is an opportunity for Chevron to save energy while championing a technology pegged by some as a winner in the long run…"


    A Brightsource Energy solar power tower plant. (click to enlarge)

    "Chevron Technology Ventures, which sells solar power and energy efficiency services, studied the [parched flatland site nestled against hills on the western edge of California's agriculture-intensive Central Valley] for a year and a half before deciding it would cause a limited environmental impact and take advantage of the area's high solar radiation…

    "While the Chevron project will not produce electricity, it is another vote of support for solar in an area that is near the grids of two big utilities, PG&E Corp's Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison…Both utilities have recently struck deals with Chevron partner BrightSource for large amounts of solar thermal power…[and] PG&E contracted with a unit of Portuguese conglomerate Martifer for 106.8 megawatts of power from both a solar thermal plant and natural gas produced by agricultural waste at plants near Coalinga -- also known for its cattle…"

    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    From March 23, NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION (THEREFORE PART OF THE PROBLEM)

    Update: Rising Tide North America, a proudly unruly bunch of radical climate activists, issued a pamphlet last spring condemning a list of favorite solutions that from their admirably idealistic point of view are not solutions.

    Prominent on the list of non-solutions is “clean” coal, yet it seems nothing will stop national policy makers from trying to make it happen. Current pending proposals in the U.S., Western Europe, Australia and Asia would spend tens of billions on pilot projects for a technology that is prohibitively costly, probably unworkable and, at best, decades from implementation.

    But maybe that’s smart politics, a practical art of little interest to idealists and radicals: Talk up “clean” coal and throw money at R&D for it. The money becomes something like a payoff to the coal industry for the right to move ahead with the building of New Energy infrastructure and emissions reduction policies. Meanwhile, the cost of adding carbon capture capability to power plants makes it impractical, environmental impact studies make the approval of sequestration sites unlikely and new policies (also compromise measures in a compromised world) slowly force back greenhouse gas emissions.

    At the same time, the slow but inevitable and steady development of emissions-free New Energy infrastructure and Energy Efficiency practices will sooner or later make any kind of coal, clean or otherwise, irrelevant.


    Hoodwinked in the Hothouse; False Solutions to Climate Change
    March 17, 2009 (Rising Tide North America)

    SUMMARY
    Hoodwinked in the Hothouse; False Solutions to Climate Change is a new pamphlet issued by Rising Tide North America, among the most active of the activists fighting the coal industry.

    The false solutions described in the pamphlet: (1) “Clean” Coal and Carbon Capture and Storage; (2) Natural Gas and Liquefied Natural Gas; (3) “2nd-Generation” Agrofuels; (4) Nuclear Energy; (5) Carbon Trading and Carbon Offsets; (6) The World Bank’s Anti-Solutions, especially REDD; (7) Megadams; and (8) Geoengineering.

    The false solutions of the pamphlet’s title demonstrate Rising Tide’s uncompromising commitment to New Energy, climate justice and sustainability.

    The basic premise of “false solutions” is that they come from the same corporate institutions which only a few years ago were in complete denial of climate change. Now, scrambling to regain control and take advantage of the worldwide movement demanding climate change action, they are selling “a dizzying array of false solutions” …designed not to fight climate change but to “cash in” on it. Worse still, they extend the potentially disastrous impact of their previous state of denial by distracting focus “from the root causes of the crisis” and efforts to build the urgently needed New Energy economy based on sun, wind, water and principles of sustainability.

    A demand for “climate justice” permeates the pamphlet’s judgments. The impacts of climate change, already ongoing, hit the poorest hardest. Half the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) come from the 15% of the world’s population living in the Global North. Short cuts to a zero carbon future are insufficient to completely readjust the relationship of humanity to its habitat.

    click to enlarge

    The pamphlet has entries from the World Development Movement, Corporate Watch, the World Rainforest Movement, Rachel Smolker, Rory Cox, the Transnational Institute, Oscar Reyes, and Alter Eco. It has photography and artwork from Ben Powless, Tamra Gilbertson, Mike Wells, Appalachian Voices, Jorge Alcoreza, Andy Singer and the Beehive Design Collective.

    Rising Tide is seeking funding for an expanded edition they plan to distribute at the December Copenhagen climate change summit at which the world will finalize plans for the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocols on global climate change. Anyone interested in supporting the project can obtain information from False Solutions at Rising Tide North America.

    COMMENTARY
    - Why the false solutions are false:
    (1) “Clean” Coal and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS);
    - CCS technology is unlikely to be workable at commercial scale before 2030.
    - Storage of CO2 is not likely to be entirely safe.
    - CCS would be prohibitively expensive.
    - CCS is an excuse to build dirty coal plants.
    - Coal plants cause 24,000+ premature U.S. deaths/year.
    - More toxic mercury emissions come from “clean” coal plants than conventional ones.
    - Emissions from transport and mining completely disqualify coal from the label “clean.”

    click to enlarge

    (2) Natural Gas and Liquefied Natural Gas;
    - Burning natural gas is not clean, it just emits fewer GhGs than coal or oil.
    - LNG is volatile and expensive.
    (3) “2nd-Generation” Agrofuels;
    - Agrofuels lead to deforestation.
    - Agrofuels drive staple food prices up, unduly harming poor peoples whose diets depend on staples.
    - Agrofuels also drive other food prices up, leading inflation and economic problems.
    - Agrofuels increase plantation expansion in the developing world, displacing families and communities.
    - Agrofuels use up ever-scarcer water resources.

    click to enlarge

    (4) Nuclear Energy;
    - Mining, milling and transporting uranium disqualifies nuclear energy as “clean” or emissions-free.
    - Nuclear power plants are prohibitively expensive.
    - There is no solution for safe radioactive waste storage.

    click to enlarge

    (5) Carbon Trading and Carbon Offsets;
    - The pamphlet calls Europe’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) “an unmitigated failure.”
    - It describes the earliest period of the ETS when power companies took advantage of flaws in the system to profit.
    - It reports that EU emissions continue to rise.
    - It claims the EU cap&trade system unduly impacts the poor and developing world communities.
    - It suggests a U.S. cap&trade would be as vulnerable to economic disaster as financial system proved last year to be.
    - The report describes carbon offsets as little short of a “scam” and a way the Global North takes advantage of the Global South and the developing economies.
    Offsetting leads to tree plantations, which can be devastating to undeveloped lands and indigenous peoples as agrofuels.

    click to enlarge

    (6) The World Bank’s Anti-Solutions, especially REDD;
    - Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) is a World Bank plan to reverse the harmful impacts of deforestation.
    - The World Bank’s plan for $10 billion annual investment in REDD may create unforeseen long-term harm worse than the short-term benefits it offers.
    (7) Megadams;
    - Megadams have serious ecological and social impacts.
    - They force peoples living in the vicinity out of their homes.
    - Dams in the Pacific Northwest have led to the near extinction of salmon.
    - The widespread practice of allowing carbon offsets for megadam investment is a way of increasing returns for projects without actually creating new emissions reductions.
    (8) Geoengineering (including (a) sulphates in the stratosphere, (b) sunshades in space, (c) genetically engineered trees, (d) ocean fertilization, (e) plastic coated deserts, and (f) burning trees to cool the planet) is likely to have disastrous and devastating unintended and unforeseen consequences as a result of tampering with the environment on a global scale. If it has any impact at all except wasting money.

    click to enlarge

    - The questions to ask about proffered solutions:
    (1) Who owns, controls, and profits from each technology?
    (2) Who loses?
    (3) Beyond measuring carbon impact, how does each proposal affect communities and other aspects of ecosystem health?
    - Examples of technologies that could be solutions:
    (1) micro-hydro
    (2) organic agriculture
    (3) public transit
    (4) passive solar home heating

    QUOTES
    - From the pamphlet: “Our fear of change and the unknown, and the widely held belief that technological progress can solve all problems make these techno-fixes and market-based solutions extremely seductive…An entire generation has grown up in a world in where little has been possible without corporate assent…Yet upon closer examination, the choices they have presented are false ones, dangerous detours on the road to a just, livable planet, distracting us from the root causes of the crisis.”
    - From the pamphlet, on “Clean” Coal and Carbon Capture and Storage: “Even if coal could somehow be prepared and burned safely, there is no way to repair the damage of coal extraction, which has devastated communities and ecosystems from Bangladesh to Black Mesa, Arizona.”

    click to enlarge

    - From the pamphlet, on Natural Gas and Liquefied Natural Gas: “…for decades natural gas from North American fields has been touted as a “bridge fuel” to a renewable future. Decades later, we are no closer to the other side of that bridge. Instead, oil and gas multinationals are trying to sell us another bridge: Imported Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)…”
    - From the pamphlet, on “2nd-Generation” Agrofuels: “Agrofuel targets in climate and energy policies have one source: lobbying by companies with investments in agrofuels. The beneficiaries of the rush to agrofuels are neither the climate nor farmers, but multinational agricultural corporations.”
    - From the pamphlet, on Nuclear Energy: “The nuclear industry has latched onto the climate crisis in a last ditch attempt to survive in the face of long-term public opposition. Nuclear power is presented as clean energy because no carbon dioxide is emitted during the electricity generation process. Yet huge amounts of energy are required for every other stage in the process, including the mining, milling and transportation of the uranium; the construction and decommissioning of the power plants; and the reprocessing, storage and disposal of nuclear waste. At present, most of this energy comes from fossil fuels.”

    click to enlarge

    - From the pamphlet, on Carbon Trading: “Perhaps the most troubling aspect of cap-and-trade is that it creates an experimental new system of private property rights. Permits are accounted for in corporate balance sheets and recorded in legal statutes the same way as patents or land grants from the government. When property rights are created and given to the most powerful actors in society, their ability to shape future privileges is only further entrenched…At a time when poorly understood, experimental markets dominated by powerful interests have thrust millions of households into foreclosure and the world into the worst global recession in decades, do we really want another opaque commodity trading market?”
    - From the pamphlet, on Carbon Offsets: “Tragically, environmentally conscious individuals have been hoodwinked by the “carbon neutral” mentality, priming the pump for the global offset industry. We are told that we can “offset” our emissions from a particularly polluting activity for a small fee…”
    - From the pamphlet, on The World Bank’s Anti-Solutions: “Tragically, the World Bank is a central agent for delivering “green” development within the UN’s climate treaties. The Bank, a powerful and deeply undemocratic international institution, has a long and controversial history of assisting large corporations in “developing” poor countries.”
    - From the pamphlet, on REDD: “The Bank’s latest scheme, called “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation” (REDD) is part of the “Bali Roadmap” established by the UN in 2007, and is slated to be a key component of any post-Kyoto climate treaty. This new plan offers a means for rich countries to avoid responsibility for over-consumption and evade emissions cuts by buying offsets.”
    - From the pamphlet, on Megadams: “While hydroelectric dams do not require combustion to generate electricity, they have deep ecological and social footprints and they still produce greenhouse gases…One study found that the net release of CO2 from hydroelectric dams in tropical regions are as high as the greenhouse gas emissions of a coal plant producing an equal amount of electricity.”

    click to enlarge

    - From the pamphlet, on Geoengineering: “Geoengineering rests on the assumption that humans are masters of the universe and the natural world, and have the ability to control and engineer its systems. Climate change has shown that humans do not and probably never will understand the planet’s systems well enough to try to artificially engineer a rebalancing of the scales that over-consumption has tipped.”
    - From the pamphlet, on True Solutions: “Effective and just solutions to climate change require decision-making that incorporates all who are affected by the results of the decisions—not just deals between those who stand to profit. The hold that corporate interests and centuries-old colonial mindsets have over political decision-making must be broken. Only then can we begin creating a new, more just society in the shell of the old.”

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