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

The new challenge: To make every day Earth Day.



  • Thanksgiving Thursday-Fast Fun Facts About Thanksgiving
  • Thanksgiving Thursday-A Lesser Known Bit Of Thanksgiving History
  • Thanksgiving Thursday-A Funky History Of Thanksgiving

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

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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

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

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

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

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

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

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

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

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

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here ( Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

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


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



    Your intrepid reporter


      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.


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

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  • Wednesday, June 30, 2010


    New Report Provides Blueprint for Building Domestic Wind Energy Component Supply Chain; BlueGreen Alliance, American Wind Energy Association, and USW Provide “Manufacturing Blueprint” to Build Out Domestic Wind Energy Supply Chain and Create U.S. Manufacturing Jobs
    June 28, 2010 (American Wind Energy Association)

    Wind energy is not only the most mature and capable of the New Energies right now, it is also the leading voice of the New Energy industries.

    That is why it is so interesting to see that, in response to the U.S. New Energy industries’ currently slowing momentum, wind is reaching out, forming alliances and pushing harder than ever for the federal policies that will matter.

    Late in 2009, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the other New Energy industries reached out to the natural gas industry in an attempt to find common ground in the nation's fight against coal dependence and the fight against greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs).

    Early in June, 2010, AWEA and the United Steelworkers Union (USW) formed a Partnership for Progress and called for a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES). Shortly after that, AWEA joined the Alliance to Save Energy, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the Biomass Power Association, Growth Energy, the Energy Recovery Council, the Geothermal Energy Association, the National Hydropower Association, and the Solar Energy Industries Association to declare THE TIME IS NOW for a national RES.

    Now AWEA has joined the USW and its labor union and environmentalist partners in the Blue-Green Alliance to release "Winds of Change: A Manufacturing Blueprint for the Wind Industry. The Blueprint calls for an RES requiring U.S. utilities to obtain 25% of their power from New Energy sources by 2025.

    click to enlarge

    Wind, the ultimate American can-do energy industry, can and is doing what it has to. That it created a boom from 2004 to 2008, rose to a pinnacle of accomplishment and took over international leadership in wind energy production despite shoddy and inconsistent federal policy support means nothing now. That it went from 2,500 U.S. jobs in 2004 to 18,500 jobs in 2009 means nothing now. That it quadrupled its yearly capacity additions to 10 gigawatts in 2009 and finished the year with a world-leading 35+ gigawatts of cumulative U.S. capacity means nothing now.

    What matters now is that the New Energies – and their new allies – be heard.

    Political leaders in Washington, D.C., will – when they finish eulogizing Senator Byrd and tormenting Ms. Kagan – go to work on legislation in response to the April coal mine cave-in disaster that killed 29 miners and the even worse Gulf oil spill that killed 11 offshore oil platform workers and resulted in an environmental and economic atrocity for the region.

    What matters now is that those political leaders get the message that fossil fuel-perpetrated devastations will only come to an end when the nation turns with all its might to New Energy.

    What matters now is that those political leaders come to understand there is a choice in the kind of energy they subsidize and there are real and devastating consequences when they subsidize dirty and dangerous energies.

    What matters now is that those political leaders also come to understand there is a huge opportunity for the nation in New Energy. It is an opportunity to staunch the flow of U.S. treasure to profoundly troubled places and people, to enhance the nation’s energy security, to invest in domestic sources of power generation in a way that will rehabilitate its economy and to get the nation on the world’s side in the fight against climate change and killer air pollution.

    click to enlarge

    So the wind industry is speaking out. It is calling for federal policies that will give it a level playing field against its Old Energy competitors. Industries like nuclear energy, natural gas and coal have long had support in the form of federal subsidies, guarantees and incentives. The Old Energies, in fact, could not exist without such support. Wind and the other New Energies aske only that the rules be fair. Either take away their competitors’ advantages or give them long term policies like:

    (1) A national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) requiring U.S. utilities to obtain 25% of their power from New Energy sources by 2025,
    (2) An extension of the Recovery Act's 1603 convertible tax credit,
    (3) A cap and price on greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) with protections for vulnerable domestic industries,
    (4) Legislation to facilitate extensive development of new transmission infrastructure,
    (5) Expanded funding for the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit to subsidize the building and renovation of manufacturing capacity,
    (6) Further loan guarantees for new and renovated New Energy manufacturing capacity, (7) Enactment and funding of the Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology (IMPACT) and Renewable Energy Market Access Program (REMAP) Acts to grow the domestic manufacturing supply chain,
    (8) Funding for the Green Jobs Act to insure a trained job force, and
    (9) Support for states to further develop similar subsidies, guarantees and incentives.

    During the press conference held to announce the release of Winds Of Change, one of the speakers intended to say that not backing U.S. turbine makers with strong policies could result in the “cessation” of manufacturing activity and the wealth of economic benefits that come with it. He inadvertently said “secession” instead. But his malapropism was closer to the truth.

    Turbine manufacturing will not cease. It will secede from the U.S. and move to other countries, countries like Turkey and China and India where they are backing their New Energy industries because they see what the fossil fuel addicts in U.S. political power centers refuse to see. They see that New Energy is the future and no matter how hard they try to stop it, it is coming. It is coming and it is bringing enormous opportunities for those countries smart enough to seize them. The time is now. NOW.

    click to enlarge

    Because Pennsylvania enacted RES, Gamesa – the world’s 7th biggest turbine manufacturer – chose the state for manufacturing facilities that added 1000+ steel workers to the job rolls.

    On the strength of only an inconsistent federal production tax credit (PTC) and some strong state policies, the wind industry grew its manufacturing sector jobs 7 times over in the last 5 years to 18,500. Strong, long-term policies could generate tens of thousands of jobs.

    The record-breaking growth in the wind industry from 2004 to 2009 came because
    Congress sustained the PTC over that period. During that period, the domestic supply chain was developed but turbine manufacturing capacity lagged because the world’s biggest turbine companies are not based in the U.S. and require longer-term policy support to make the kinds of large and extended investments necessary to build plants.

    The result of Congress allowing crucial 2009 Recovery Act benefits for wind to expire at the end 2010 is that wind development fell off in the first quarter of 2010 to its lowest point in 3 years: 539 megawatts. At its current pace, it may not achieve even a quarter of its 2009 benchmark.

    click to enlarge

    Another bust looms, with 14,000 planned manufacturing jobs and billions in revenues threatened.

    The U.S. wind industry grew an average of 39% per year from 2004 to 2009. It added 10,000 megawatts in 2009, bringing cumulative capacity to a world-leading 35,000+ megawatts, enough to power 9.7 million U.S. homes.

    The last time the U.S. led the world was in the early 1980s. Because of the failure of federal policy, U.S. wind looks to lose its world leadership to China either this year or next.

    The U.S. invented utility-scale wind energy in the early 1980s as the result of the Energy Tax Act of 1978 that created a 15% Energy Investment Tax Credit (EITC) through 1985 and the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 that required utilities to purchase New Energy.

    click to enlarge

    In 1985, the wind industry built 1,000 megawatts but – because of waning policy support and cheap natural gas – never achieved that level of development again until 2001.

    In 1986, the U.S. had ~90% of the world’s wind capacity, most in California. Between 1987 and 1997, the EITC expired, Europe grew strong policies, the U.S. built less than 50 megawatts of wind per year and, by 1998, the U.S. had 1,853 megawatts of wind while Europe had 6,453 megawatts.

    The U.S. got back in the game after 2001, thanks largely to state RESs, other state policies, and the re-enactment of the federal PTC yearly from 2005 to 2009. The wind industry went from a 2004 installed capacity of 6,700 megawatts to 2009’s 35,000 megawatts.

    The supply chain grew but turbine manufacturers rarely took the plunge because of such inconsistency in federal policy.

    click to enlarge

    2009’s record-breaking growth was directly attributable to the Recovery Act’s extension of the PTC for 3 years and allowing it to be converted into a 30% Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that could be exchanged for a cash grant through 2010.

    As AWEA and its blue collar allies continually insist, wind turbine manufacturers need longer-term policies and the long-term promise of markets – comparable to what they can get in Europe, China and India -- in order to make the big investments their facilities require.

    China has set the goal of building 100 gigawatts of wind by 2020 and the central government is doing everything possible to support its wind industry in achieving the target. Its industry built almost 14 gigawatts in 2009 and looks ready to leave the U.S. industry in the dust sometime in 2011 or 2012.

    click to enlarge

    The U.S. wind industry’s “fundamentals” are considered sound. All that’s lacking is strong, long-term supportive policy: (1) The wind industry manufacturing sector added/expanded 100+ facilities since 2007 and has 240+ facilities in a ready-to-serve component supply chain. The domestic sector has tower and blade makers and nacelle assembly facilities. (2) Makers of nacelle internals, the smaller, highly complex, high-value “brains and heart” of a turbine, are just getting started. (3) In 2005, the U.S. wind industry built ~2,500 megawatts and ~25% was from the domestic manufacturing supply chain but in 2009 it built 10,000+ megawatts and ~50% was from the domestic manufacturing supply chain. (5) Research suggests there is no reason the domestic manufacturing supply chain cannot supply a significantly larger portion of what is installed in the U.S. if the turbines themselves are also made domestically.

    Towers: There are 20 U.S. utility-scale turbine tower makers, 14 added since 2004. Texas, which has the biggest U.S. installed capacity, has 25% of the online and announced tower manufacturing. The value of imported towers fell in 2009 while the value of the domestic market grew 20%, indicating strong demand for U.S. towers.

    Blades: There are 13 U.S. blade manufacturing facilities, 9 added since 2004. 3 are planned. The value of imported blades fell in 2009 while the U.S. installations grew, again indicative of strong demand for domestic blades.

    click to enlarge

    OEMs and Nacelle Assembly: 9 turbine manufacturers, or original equipment
    manufacturers (OEMs), had more than a percent of U.S. wind installations. There 8 domestic nacelle assembly facilities and 8 more are planned.

    Nacelle Internals: As nacelle assembly facilities double (see above), demand for nacelle internals, the very complex, high-value components that make up the “heart and brains” of the turbine, will grow.

    The first U.S. facility for any of the 3 major components – gearboxes, generators and drives – came online in 2009. There is also a growing supply chain for smaller, sub-components like bearings, electricals and hydraulic systems.

    Needed: New foundry capacity to do the castings required in utility-scale turbines. Large castings (the mainframe, hub, rotor shaft, etc.) weigh 30 tons and more. Domestic manufacturing of them is much preferable to shipping them.

    click to enlarge

    Offshore Wind Turbines: There is no U.S. offshore wind industry. It is all opportunity.

    The study includes discussions of:
    (1) the job potential in wind manufacturing (showing that the current 14,000 jobs waiting in wind manufacturing could grow to 30,000 with supportive policies),
    (2) the factors that will drive growth in a domestic wind manufacturing sector (showing the most important factor is the sheer price advantage from making the 250-to-400 ton turbines near where they will be erected rather than importing them), and
    (3) the role state policies can play in building a domestic manufacturing sector (showing states' biggest roles should be in supporting markets and training workers).

    The last part of the new paper is a discussion of the urgently needed policy measures that will build a long-term market to support a domestic wind energy manufacturing sector.

    click to enlarge

    (1) A national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) requiring U.S. utilities to obtain 25% of their power from New Energy sources by 2025:

    36 countries, including China and all the EU member states, have an RES. Research shows a national RES would bring 274,000 new U.S. jobs. 29 states and D.C. already have an RES. It is not currently high on the Congressional agenda.

    (2) A cap and price on greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) with protections for vulnerable domestic industries:

    Caps should match the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)-stated call for GhG reductions of 80% below the 1990 level by 2050. Mechanisms must be legislated though which the caps can be achieved. Research shows hard caps with a workable mechanism to achieve them and protections for vulnerable domestic industries could drive the growth of New Energy even more effectively than an RES.

    click to enlarge

    (3) An extension the Recovery Act 1603 convertible tax:

    The Treasure grant in lieu of the ITC not only salvaged a recession-year downturn in the wind industry but turned it into a record year. The Renewable Energy
    Expansion Act of 2010, from Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore), and the American Renewable Energy Jobs Act, from Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), would both extend the cash grant option through 2012. Any serviceable bill should make the mechanism automatic. Any extension should also: (a) Require goals, (b) Require reporting, and (c) Require feedback data analysis to reconcile experience with the bill’s intent.

    (4) Expanded funding of $5 billion for the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit to subsidize the building and renovation of manufacturing capacity:

    It should also: (a) Add selection criteria, (b) Strengthen existing selection criteria, (c) Include criteria targeting specific market segments, and (d) Establish goals and submit an analysis of collected data to Congress.

    (5) Further loan guarantees for new and renovated New Energy manufacturing capacity:

    Longterm, lower-cost debt is especially important to manufacturers because their capital costs are so high and the current financial environment makes it otherwise prohibitively expensive. A variety of mechanisms exist. The report recommends funding a pair of them at ~$2 billion each.

    click to enlarge

    (6) Enactment and funding of the Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology (IMPACT) and Renewable Energy Market Access Program (REMAP) Acts to grow the domestic supply manufacturing supply chain:

    IMPACT creates a $30 billion state-level loan fund and adds $1.5 billion to the existing Manufacturing Extension Partnership program to help New Energy manufacturers retool.

    The Renewable Energy Market Access Program (REMAP) would help small and medium-sized New Energy companies export to existing and new markets abroad and learn how to best access foreign markets.

    (7) Funding for the Green Jobs Act at $125 million per year to insure a trained job force:

    The New Energy manufacturing sector requires workers with skills but ~1.6 million U.S. manufacturing workers are near retirement age and 57% of working adults lack basic skills or an educational credential beyond high school. The Green Jobs Act helps close the skills gap and should be fully funded at its authorized level of $125 million per year.

    click to enlarge

    (8) Legislation to facilitate extensive development of new transmission infrastructure:

    To use 25% New Energy, a complete effort from local, state, and federal officials to fund and build new transmission infrastructure will be necessary. It will require streamlined permitting, funding, skilled workers to build and implement it but it will create big economic benefits. Policy barriers, the biggest obstacle, can be addressed through (a) Interconnection-Wide Transmission Planning, (b) Interconnection-Wide Transmission Cost Allocation and Certainty for Cost Recovery, and (c) Federal Siting initiatives.

    click to enlarge

    - From the report’s conclusion: “The American wind industry has made impressive strides towards increasing domestic content in installed wind turbines and has brought thousands of jobs online in manufacturing. However, the wind manufacturing sector is still developing, with the opportunity to bring tens of thousands of additional jobs online. In order to justify investment in opening new facilities and expanding or retooling existing facilities, Congress must take action to ensure a long-term, stable wind energy market. Coupled with other policies to support the U.S. manufacturing sector, these actions would enable the wind industry to develop robust supply chains and employ thousands of Americans in good, clean energy jobs.”


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