NewEnergyNews: On The Road Reading: US Wind in a Tempestuous Congress and a Remote Brazilian Court; Can wind get respite from this year’s death by a thousand cuts?

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

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE- EU UPS THE WORLD’S BAR ON EMISSIONS CUT TARGETS
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-FIRST BIG MOROCCO SOLAR NEAR POWERING UP
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NORTH SEA WIND-HYDRO INTERLINK TO GROW
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-TURKISH GEOTHERMAL GETS INTELLIGENT
  • THE DAY BEFORE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Oct. 23:

  • TTTA Thursday-EVANGELICALS IN ‘CREATION CARE’ CLIMATE FIGHT
  • TTTA Thursday-ADVANCED WIND-MAKERS MAKANI, SHEERWIND READY DEMOS
  • TTTA Thursday-TEA PARTY BACKS SOLAR, ATTACKS UTILITY MONOPOLIES
  • TTTA Thursday-WHAT DRIVERS DON’T KNOW HOLDS BACK THE FUTURE
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE IMPACT ON REAL PEOPLE OF RISING POWER PRICES
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 22: SCHOOLS SAVE W/GEOTHERMAL HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; BUILDING FOR NEXT-GEN U.S. BIOFUELS; ENERGY STORAGE MARKET EMERGING
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • 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
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

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

  • Weekend Video: The Ocean Speaks Out
  • Weekend Video: Adapting To The Inevitable
  • Weekend Video: The Joy Of Driving EVs Powered By The Sun
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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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  • Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    On The Road Reading: US Wind in a Tempestuous Congress and a Remote Brazilian Court; Can wind get respite from this year’s death by a thousand cuts?

    US Wind in a Tempestuous Congress and a Remote Brazilian Court; Can wind get respite from this year’s death by a thousand cuts?

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

    There may be bipartisanship on renewable energy issues in Washington despite what Governor Romney’s campaign says. And a remote Brazilian court may soon tip the scales of international justice toward U.S. wind.

    Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) has for weeks seemed like a lone voice as he has gone daily to the Senate floor to call for extension of wind’s vital 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour production tax credit (PTC) and argued for the 37,000 jobs and annual $20 billion private investment likely to be lost if Congress does not act.

    Senate Finance Committee members from both sides of the aisle must have been listening. Thursday, by a 19-to-5 vote, they passed an extenders package with a PTC extension, as well as an extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that would help grow offshore anddistributed wind.

    Crucial support from Republican Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) made it possible for the Democratic majority to get the bill out of committee.

    Udall and six non-member senators -- Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Boozman (R-AR), Scott Brown (R-MA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Jerry Moran (R-KS) -- submitted a letter urging the committee to support wind’s incentives.

    The ITC is important to offshore developers because it allows investors in the more costly and slowly built ocean projects to reap tax equity benefits sooner. The Finance Committee’s ITC extension starts the equity payoff with the beginning of construction instead of the beginning of production.

    The prospect of the bill getting to the Senate floor for a vote before the November election is not considered to be good, and assent from the Republican-led House of Representatives is even less likely. As noted by GTM yesterday, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney opposes the PTC and support for renewables. Earthtechling’s Pete Danko explained in GTM how Romney’s position could create problems for him in the crucial swing states of Iowa and Colorado. The Finance Committee vote affirmed Danko’s point.

    “Tax credits to boost one industry harm competing industries,” commented Heartland Institute Tax Policy Research Fellow Steve Stanek on the Finance Committee vote.“Congress should end targeted tax credits and subsidies and let all energy producers compete on an even playing field.”

    But efforts to extend the PTC and ITC are only necessary, American Wind Energy Association CEO Denise Bode frequently notes, because the fossil and nuclear industries’ subsidies are permanently embedded in the tax code, while the renewables must continually fight for renewal of comparable support.

    “Taxpayer funding for wind turbines,” Heartland Institute Executive Director Tom Harris said of the vote, “is driven by the unsubstantiated belief that by expanding the use of wind power, we will reduce greenhouse gases that are supposedly driving dangerous climate change. [… But] current climate change is not unusual and it is not being driven by man’s greenhouse gas production.”

    Europe’s policies have seen over 3.8 gigawatts of offshore wind installed there and Chinese and South Korean incentives target multi-gigawatt offshore capacities by mid-decade. The U.S. may have one 300-megawatt offshore installation by 2015.

    AMSC’s legal fight with Chinese wind turbine manufacturer Sinovel over intellectual property (IP) rights in China seems about to get judicial consideration in the remote Brazilian jurisdiction of Barra dos Coqueiros.

    When Sinovel ignored requests for verification that the twenty-three 1.5-megawatt turbines it shipped to Brazilian wind developer Desenvix did not contain illegally obtained AMSC IP, Desenvix filed a court order.

    AMSC, which is pursuing four Chinese court cases requesting $1.2 billion in compensation and damages from Sinovel, followed with its own filing.

    This all began when Sinovel unexpectedly refused contracted AMSC wind turbine core electrical components in March 2012 and referred to the components as “backward technology” in the Chinese media.

    Subsequently, an Austrian court convicted a former AMSC employee of taking money from Sinovel for illegally transferring codes for the “backward technology.” Evidence included emails containing the bribe offer, the technology transfer, and the money transfer, as well as proof the stolen technology is being used in a Sinovel customer’s turbines.

    Desenvix wanted to know if the turbines delivered by Sinovel used the illegally obtained code. When Sinovel would not answer requests for information, Desenvix sought a court order.

    In 2010, Sinovel was the world’s second biggest turbine manufacturer, with a 10.7 percent global market share. By 2011, it had fallen to seventh, with a 7.3 percent share. The Chinese press recently reported management salary cuts, workforce layoffs and the failure of Sinovel’s replacement technology. (Sinovel has not answered GTM requests for comment.)

    Last November, Irish developer Mainstream Renewables canceled a one-gigawatt contract with Sinovel. In January, the company cut its annual projections 50 percent. In June, Romanian developer Eolica Dobrogea backed out of a 1.2-gigawatt deal.

    AMSC’s 2011 numbers also plunged, but just-announced 1Q 2012 financials showconsiderable improvement. Total year-on-year revenues nearly tripled and net losses were cut almost three-quarters.

    Sources familiar with small Brazilian court procedures suggest the resolution of the case may take time.

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