NewEnergyNews: TODAY’S STUDY: MEDIA SPINNING SOLYNDRA

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

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YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: THE ECONOMIC ADVANTAGES OF NEW ENERGY – THE NORTH CAROLINA CASE
  • QUICK NEWS, April 22: ON EARTH – A QUICK LOOK BACK; OBSERVATIONS FOR EARTH DAY (continued); OBAMA ADMIN UPS BACKING FOR NEW ENERGY
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    THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE U.S. NEW ENERGY MARKET NOW AND AHEAD
  • QUICK NEWS, April 21: OBSERVATIONS FOR EARTH DAY; BACK TO OWNERSHIP IN SOLAR; 15X GROWTH FOR ASIA PACIFIC MIDROGRIDS
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Happy Birthday Solar Cell
  • Weekend Video: Offshore Wind As A Hurricane A Wall
  • Weekend Video: Get On The Climate Policy Train
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 5 (continued from yesterday)
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 6
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 7
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 8
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, April 17:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 1
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 2
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 3
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 4
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: NEW ENERGY POSSIBILITIES – THE MICHIGAN EXAMPLE
  • QUICK NEWS, April 16: THE RACE AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE; THE FAST RISING POTENTIAL OF U.S. NEW ENERGY; BIG TEXAS WIND SHRINKS ELECTRICITY MRKT PRICE
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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

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  • ---------------
  • Monday, September 24, 2012

    TODAY’S STUDY: MEDIA SPINNING SOLYNDRA

    STUDY: One Year Later, Media Still Providing One-Sided Solyndra Coverage

    Jill Fitzsimmmons, Max Greenberg, Shauna Theel, September 7, 2012 (Media Matters)

    Media Matters analysis finds that Fox News has aided Republican efforts to make Solyndra the face of clean energy in 2012 by incessantly covering it a year after the company declared bankruptcy. Meanwhile, mainstream media outlets have disproportionately hosted opponents of clean energy to discuss Solyndra, and uncritically repeated allegations that Solyndra's loan guarantee was politically motivated, even though a yearlong investigation has found no evidence to support the "crony capitalism" narrative.

    Fox News Still Relentlessly Covering Solyndra

    In 2012, Fox News Covered Solyndra More Than Other Major TV Outlets Combined. Since January, Fox News has discussed Solyndra 84 times in primetime, despite there being very little news to report. Fox's coverage amounted to more than three times that of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC combined. From a study of substantial mentions of and segments on Solyndra for ABC, CBS, NBC and the primetime shows of Fox News, CNN and MSNBC:

    Opponents Of Clean Energy Investments Outnumbered Proponents In TV Appearances On Solyndra.

    Of those hosted or quoted by the major TV networks on Solyndra, 71 percent opposed clean energy investments like the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program, while only 25 percent supported such investments. CBS, NBC, Fox News, and CNN hosted more opponents than proponents, while ABC and MSNBC hosted an even number on both sides.

    Media Failed To Mention That Congress Anticipated And Budgeted For Defaults.

    In the media's discussion of Solyndra, less than 1 percent of TV coverage and 4 percent of print coverage explained that Congress expected that not all projects would succeed. None of the major outlets explained that most loans went to low-risk generation projects. Congress budgeted $2.47 billion, or more than 15 percent of the total value of approved 1705 loan guarantees, to cover for defaults. To date, only three out of the 26 recipients of 1705 loan guarantees have filed for bankruptcy, with losses estimated at just over $600 million. All three of the defaults were higher risk loans. But a Bloomberg Government study found that "87 percent of the $16.1 billion in loan guarantees is backing 18 power generation projects, which have a low risk of default because they were required to have buyers for their power output." That study found that even if all of the higher risk (non-generation) projects defaulted on the full amount of their loan guarantees and "no assets were to be recovered, the DOE would still have $446 million remaining to cover additional project losses." [Media Matters, 12/6/11] [Media Matters, 6/29/12]

    Media Advanced Baseless "Crony Capitalism" Allegations

    Media Uncritically Repeated Charges Of "Crony Capitalism," Ignoring Facts That Run Counter To GOP Narrative. Thirty-nine percent of television coverage and 18 percent of print coverage repeated Republican claims that Solyndra is an example of "crony capitalism" and that politics played a role in the loan guarantee, without noting that there is no evidence to support this charge. The Washington Post uncritically mentioned cronyism charges in 45 percent of coverage -- more than any other print outlet. ABC repeated these charges in every one of its segments on Solyndra, and CBS and CNN did so in 50 percent of coverage. While the broadcast networks never disputed the allegations, 6 percent of cable coverage and 7.5 percent of newspaper coverage criticized those charges (critical coverage is not counted against outlets in the graph below).

    While advancing these baseless allegations, media largely ignored facts that undermine this narrative. Mainstream outlets said in 25 percent of coverage that some Solyndra investors donated to President Obama, but they almost entirely ignored the fact that Republican donors like the Walton family also invested in Solyndra. Not a single media outlet mentioned that Solyndra attracted more than $1 billion in private capital and was seen by many as a promising, innovative company. And only 3 percent of TV coverage and less than one percent of print coverage mentioned that the loan process for Solyndra started under the Bush administration. [Media Matters, 9/19/11]

    A Long Investigation Turned Up No Evidence Of Wrongdoing. BloombergBusinessweek's Joshua Green reported that an extensive investigation by House Republicans found no evidence of wrongdoing in the loan guarantee program. He also noted that Solyndra was seen by many business experts as promising…Businessweek, 2/17/12, emphasis added] [Media Matters, 9/19/11]...Oversight Committee Chairman: "Is There Political Influence And Connections [Involved In Solyndra]? Perhaps Not." Politico reported…Republican Acknowledged That Continued Solyndra Investigations Are Politically Motivated. E&E News reported…"Ultimately, we'll stop it on Election Day, hopefully. And bringing attention to these things helps the voters and citizens of the country make the kind of decision that I hope helps them as they evaluate who they are going to vote for in November." [E&E News, 3/21/12…Bush Admin. Advanced 16 Projects, Including Solyndra, Out Of 143 Submissions…

    Media Outlets Miss The Big Picture

    Media Failed To Explain Shifting Market Conditions Impacting Solyndra:

    A Labor Department investigation found that foreign competition "contributed importantly" to Solyndra's failure, causing a large drop in the price of the silicon-based solar panels with which Solyndra was competing. But foreign competition was mentioned in just 12 percent of TV coverage and 13 percent of print coverage, and many of these reports cited competition to argue that the government shouldn't have invested in Solyndra in the first place. Other market factors were entirely ignored by TV outlets, and mentioned in just 13 percent of print coverage. [Bay Citizen,11/21/11]

    Media Overlooked Fossil Fuel Subsidies:

    While media outlets debated the merits of investing in clean energy, they rarely mentioned that the fossil fuel industry has long benefited from large, permanent subsidies that make it difficult for solar power to compete. According to a 2011 study from venture capital firm DBL Investors on inflation-adjusted energy subsidy spending, "federal commitment to [oil and gas] was five times greater than the federal commitment to renewables during the first 15 years of each subsidies' life." And a Congressional Budget Office issue brief on federal financial support for energy development noted that "Under current law, most of the tax preferences for energy efficiency and renewable energy will expire, but preferences for fossil fuels are permanent." But not a single TV outlet made this point, and only 6 percent of print coverage mentioned fossil fuel subsidies. The Wall Street Journal, which ran stories about Solyndra more often than other major publications, only mentioned existing fossil fuel subsidies once. In a January 30 editorial, the Journal argued that President Obama should implement "a Solyndra Rule, in which no commercial energy company should receive millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies," but did not mention fossil fuel subsidies. [DBL Investors, September 2011] [Congressional Budget Office, March 2012] [Wall Street Journal, 1/30/12]

    Climate Change Largely Absent From Clean Energy Conversation.

    One of the main goals of investing in clean energy companies is to create a thriving clean energy sector that can mitigate the risks of manmade climate change. But not a single TV outlet mentioned climate change while covering Solyndra, and just over 5 percent of print coverage mentioned it. Two Wall Street Journal stories on Solyndra mentioned climate change -- tying the paper with the Associated Press for the lead in that category -- but both were opinion pieces by writers who questioned the underlying science. [Wall Street Journal, 1/25/12] [Wall Street Journal, 3/9/12]

    Methodology

    We searched Nexis and Factiva databases for substantial mentions of Solyndra (more than one sentence) between January 1, 2012, and August 31, 2012. Our analysis includes six major print outlets (New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press and Wall Street Journal), the major broadcast networks (ABC, NBC and CBS), and the primetime shows on CNN, MSNBC and Fox.

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