NewEnergyNews: TODAY’S STUDY: THE ATTACK ON NEW ENERGY

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: MORE AND SMARTER MEDIA COVERAGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN 2014
  • QUICK NEWS, July 28: CLIMATE SKEPTICS REACHING ‘CATASTROPHIC’ NUMBERS; THE COST OF THE EPA EMISSIONS CUTS; GEOTHERMAL DRILL SKILL ADVANCES
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: John Oliver On Visiting Antarctica
  • Weekend Video: Warmest May And June Ever And Non-Stop Record Heat
  • Weekend Video: Meet The Microgrid
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE- STAR WARS PLANET TATOOINE’S CLIMATE CHANGE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-BIG NEW THREAT TO CLIMATE FROM COAL-TO-GAS IN CHINA
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-INDIA VILLAGE OF 2,400 GOES 100% SOLAR WITH BATTERIES, MICROGRID
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-GERMANY IS WORLD’S MOST EFFICIENT MAJOR ECONOMY
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, July 24:

  • TTTA Thursday-CLIMATE FACTS VERSUS CLIMATE CULTURE
  • TTTA Thursday-MONEY IN WIND UP FOR QUARTER, DOWN FROM 2013
  • TTTA Thursday-MIDWEST BIOFUELS CAN BE NEW ENERGY – UCS STUDY
  • TTTA Thursday-TESLA CHAMPIONS THE PLUG AND THE CAR
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: EUROPE’S OFFSHORE WIND PROGRESS THIS YEAR
  • QUICK NEWS, July 23: NEW ENERGY WAS 55% OF 1H 2014 U.S. NEW BUILD; EV SALES LEAP; OCEAN ENERGY’S FINANCES UNDER SCRUTINY
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: WHY THE OIL & GAS INDUSTRY BACKS AN ALL-OF-THE-ABOVE ENERGY POLICY
  • QUICK NEWS, July 22: U.S. DOE FORESEES NEW ENERGY; THE BEST CITIES FOR NEW ENERGY; ENERGY STORAGE TO BE $50BIL MRKT
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

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

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

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

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

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

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

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

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

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

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

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

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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  • Tuesday, August 21, 2012

    TODAY’S STUDY: THE ATTACK ON NEW ENERGY

    Clean Energy Under Siege; Following the Money Trail Behind the Attack on Renewable Energy

    August 2012 (Sierra Club)

    Executive Summary

    Wind energy has grown steadily in the past decade, doubling in size since 2009.In 2011, it accounted for roughly three percent of U.S.electricity production (EIA).During the first months of 2012, it topped four percent.Already, Iowa and South Dakota generate 20 percent of their electricity from wind power, and the wind industry is on track to produce 20 percent of America’s electricity by 2030.A boom in the production of photovoltaic solar cells has cut the price in half and also doubled solar energy’s contribution to power supply.While still a relatively small number of electric cars are on the road today, growth is brisk, and sales have surged 164 percent since June of 2011.

    That level of growth and success has made renewable energy more of a force to be reckoned with in energy markets.It has also drawn competitive attacks from oil, coal, and gas interests.

    With renewable energy seeing an 83 percent approval rating among all Americans — including 63 percent support from Republicans and 84 percent support from Independents — it seems counterintuitive that many politicians still oppose the development of clean energy.Yet the political spending power of the traditional energy industries is unrivaled.

    Clean energy is under siege at the congressional level

    • Political attacks continue to be waged through the Solyndra investigations.

    • Hostile legislation such as the Pompeo bill (H.R.3308) continues to be introduced.

    • Conservative think tanks publish “studies” attacking federal appliance efficiency standards.

    • The Production Tax Credit (PTC) is stalled in Congress.

    Clean energy is under siege at the state level

    • Oil, coal, and gas industry power concentrated in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is targeting state Renewable Portfolio Standards.

    • Well-funded fossil-fuel advocacy groups masquerade as think tanks.

    • Self-anointed experts like John Droz Jr.are committed to bringing down clean energy.

    • Local groups receive outside funding to pursue an anti-wind agenda.

    Clean energy is under siege by some of the most powerful, free-spending entities in the nation

    • According to the campaign finance tracking group Open Secrets, oil and gas was a “top-spending industry in 2011” in the policy arena, spending more than $146 million on lobbying costs.

    • Campaign expenditures by Koch family entities Koch Industries and Oxbow Corporation place them in two of the top three campaign spending slots for 2011-2012.

    • The oil and gas industries contributed to 387 — or 88 percent — of all members of the House of Representatives in the 2010 election cycle.The industry also contributed to 89 out of 100 senators.In both chambers of Congress combined, Republicans received 86 percent of all oil and gas donations.

    • William Koch has bankrolled opposition to the Cape Wind offshore wind project for more than a decade.

    • Exxon has contributed more than $600,000 since 1998 to the Manhattan Institute, and approximately $676,500 since 1998 to the Heartland Institute.

    Attacks on clean energy present a great challenge.Clean energy industries and advocates must both rise to the challenge.We will win by providing the best solutions for America and the world.

    Conclusion

    It is a testament to the success and rapid growth of clean-energy resources that they are now regarded as enough of a threat to draw fire from some of the largest, most powerful corporations on the planet.But with this rising status, there comes a heightened degree of difficulty that the renewable and efficiency companies — as well as advocates for their products as an environmental solution — must both recognize and contend with.The Koch brothers, Exxon Mobil, Peabody Energy, and others are playing for keeps.They have unlimited resources and we have documented that they are committing them to undermining clean energy.We clearly face a dog-eat-dog environment and must respond with as much vigor and aggressiveness as those who would see wind, solar, geothermal, and other technologies fade into the sunset — a product of a brief period in American economic history when the competitive environment was a friendly place for clean energy.

    Now is a critical time.Although more than a decade late, EPA is enforcing the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.Finally challenged to pay its freight in health and environmental costs, much of the coal industry’s aging infrastructure is unable to both clean up and field a competitive product.The slew of retiring coal plants creates market space in the electric sector that could be filled by both efficiency and renewable energy solutions.It is an open question whether clean energy or only slightly-less-bad fossil fuels step into that void.

    Advocates and the industries need to step up and answer the questions raised by conservative anti-clean-energy advocates, and we must call out their untenable assumptions about the true nature of energy markets.They shouldn’t be able to hide behind libertarian fantasy when their true intent is winning competitive advantage and making more money.

    Clean energy is truly under siege, but it retains its inherent advantage as the best set of solutions to help us face a warming world and its attendant challenges.The “Merchants of Doubt” strategy lost — on tobacco, on acid rain, on ozone depletion — and it will ultimately lose on climate disruption.We must drive forward with innovation and answers that give Americans what they have always wanted: energy that enables us to live modern lives, but which does not carry the destructive costs with which coal and oil use have saddled our planet.The Koch brothers appear to have no intention of delivering that.

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