NewEnergyNews: On The Road Reading: Will BMW’s Solar-Wind Package Tap a New Target Car Market? At upscale prices, BMW customers get green electric driving—but does that matter?

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: THE THREATS TO OLD ENERGIES AROUND THE WORLD
  • QUICK NEWS, August 18: GERMANY UPS GRID STABILITY WITH NEW ENERGY ; U.S. SOLAR MANUFACTURING TO RISE; TEXAS LEADS U.S. WIND BOOM
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Buy Or Lease Rooftop Solar?
  • Weekend Video: The Sound Of The Wind
  • Weekend Video: Why Energy Efficiency?
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    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CLIMATE CHANGE IN CHINA
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-RUSSIA-CAPTURED CRIMEA DIALS DOWN NEW ENERGY
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-A NEW LOOK AT THE WORLD’S OCEAN ENERGIES
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-WORLD BANK PLEDGES $5BIL FOR AFRICA NEW ENERGY
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, August 14:

  • TTTA Thursday-KELLOGG CALLS FOR LOW CARBON CORN FLAKES
  • TTTA Thursday-SIERRA CLUB HAILS WIND CHAMPIONS IN CONGRESS
  • TTTA Thursday-THE BOOM IN SOLAR CARPORTS
  • TTTA Thursday-EV BATTERIES GET SECOND LIFE
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: SAVING WATER CAN CUT GREENHOUSE GASES
  • QUICK NEWS, August 13: ECONOMIST NUMBERS ON NEW ENERGY COST WAY OFF; POLITICS AND WIND ENERGY; GEOTHERMAL UPDATE
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: PAY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE NOW OR PAY MORE LATER
  • QUICK NEWS, August 12: WHERE SOLAR’S PROMISE IS BLOCKED; CAPE WIND NAMES LOCAL COMP FOR ELECTRICAL; BUILDING ENERGY MANAGEMENT $$$ TO DOUBLE
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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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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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  • Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    On The Road Reading: Will BMW’s Solar-Wind Package Tap a New Target Car Market? At upscale prices, BMW customers get green electric driving—but does that matter?

    Will BMW’s Solar-Wind Package Tap a New Target Car Market? At upscale prices, BMW customers get green electric driving—but does that matter?

    Herman K. Trabish, August 3, 2012 (Greentech Media)

    BMW is launching its all-electric ActiveE vehicle with a lease program for 700 dedicated customers. The pitch for the upscale car is that it's “100 percent electric and 100 percent BMW.”

    The rollout is basically “a field trial” of the U.S. electric vehicle (EV) marketplace for BMW, according to Green Mountain Energy Vice President Scott Martin. The ActiveE is not for sale.

    Only a two-year lease is available. BMW used a similar, 600-driver field test for its Mini E electric car. Feedback from that program informed preparations for the ActiveE rollout.

    This trial is aimed at what BMW calls “Electronauts” and will be limited to Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, New York, Boston, and the state of Connecticut, where EVs are popular.

    “BMW electric vehicle drivers,” Martin said, “are affluent, mostly urban individuals who put a high value on social responsibility and environmental friendliness. That’s according to BMW.” And, except perhaps for the term 'affluent,' Martin added, “that description lines up well with Green Mountain Energy’s customer.”

    To further appeal to Electronauts’ enthusiasm and concerns, Martin said, they will be given the opportunity, for a one-time fee of $48, to purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs) from Green Mountain Energy that will assure the electricity they are projected to use over the term of the two year lease will be offset by renewable energy.

    Green Mountain Energy will obtain “regional wind” RECs from Western and Northeastern power systems. By purchasing from electricity distribution systems where the cars will be marketed, the Electronauts will, to the extent possible, be supporting local renewables.

    BMW is also offering its Electronauts the opportunity to install residential rooftop solarsystems at a 35 percent discount. “This solar program, along with the new partnership with Green Mountain, demonstrates BMW’s truly holistic approach to sustainable mobility,” the company said.

    The renewables add-ons in the ActiveE marketing campaign, BMW said, eliminate critics’ claims that EVs powered from a dirty grid still generate emissions. However, critics may argue that this is only partially true. An electric drivetrain’s increased efficiency can translate to fewer emissions from a coal-powered EV than from a comparable gasoline-powered vehicle. In any case, the Green Mountain Energy partnership raises another question.

    With record heat, droughts, and wildfires making climate change increasingly undeniable, Martin was asked, does offsetting matter? In answer, he pointed to markers of Green Mountain Energy’s success.

    In the fifteen years Green Mountain Energy has worked to reduce emissions growth, he said, it has funded some 50 renewable energy facilities and seen renewables’ cumulative share of U.S. electricity generation grow to 13 percent. “I can think of no greater proof of our standing and growth potential,” Martin said, “than the fact that NRG Energy bought us for $350 million.”

    Other markers of success, he added, include its expanding customer base and banner name clients like the Empire State Building and the NFL's Super Bowl.

    Because Green Mountain is now owned by NRG, Martin explained, numbers that show its customer base and revenues are growing are unavailable. Graphs of “CO2 avoided” and “renewable energy served” in Green Mountain’s sustainability report may substantiate Martin’s claims.

    But the numbers aren’t the entire story, said Attorney Jerry Bloom, the Winston & Strawn, LLC Energy Practice Chair. “The market is telling us that the people who are marketing, and here it is BMW, believe there is such a thirst and demand from consumers for green products that it is valuable for them to be able to certify the product is green.”

    This demand, Bloom said, “is very grassroots, but at the same time is way at the top, with companies like Google and Wal-Mart and Proctor and Gamble and Dow Chemical. These companies believe that for future growth, for strictly commercial value, they need to be able to certify they are green.”

    The new paradigm, Bloom explained, is “the commercial private sector paradigm that says, irrespective of what the government may or may not require, green in itself has a perceived value. And people are chasing that -- and they’re chasing it hard.”

    There are still a lot of the unanswered questions, he acknowledged. “What’s the measurement of green? When do you get to claim you’re green? What do you get to say in advertisements? That’s the next step. But the first premise is to say there is a value. BMW obviously believes that.”

    Wal-Mart now has a sustainability index, Bloom said. “If you are Proctor & Gamble, who makes more sales to Wal-Mart on a wholesale level than all their other sales put together, and you believe you have to do well on the sustainability index to maintain your sales to Wal-Mart, you are trying to figure out how to become greener. That’s the private sector talking. That’s the commercial market giving value to being green.”

    Another example, Bloom added, “is HBSC, a huge British bank. It now has a sustainability index for making commercial loans, strictly because of concerns about potential liability and risk. Companies that want to borrow money may have to bring down their carbon footprint to borrow money from HSBC.”

    A huge number of companies, and BMW is a perfect example, Bloom noted, “are saying, ‘We are only going to deal with green companies.’ How you quantify how big the demand is, I don’t know yet. What I do know is that this market is real.”

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