Energy and Global Warming News for November 10th; Governments gave 6 times more to fossil fuels than renewables in 2009; Oil price escalation coming due to inaction on climate

November 10, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

$ 312 Billion: Governments Gave Six Times More to Fossil Fuels Than Renewable Energy in 2009, IEA Report Says

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) global subsidies for fossil fuel production were almost six times that of renewable energy subsidies 2009.

In its annual World Energy Outlook report [pdf], released today, the IEA says the fossil fuel industry received US$ 312 billion compared to US$ 57 billion for renewables.  The majority of the subsidized funding for fossil fuels came from developing countries.  The World Energy Outlook-2010 sees oil as the leading fuel in the energy mix until 2035.

Nevertheless, the agency sees renewable energy resources continuing to gain a larger share of the energy pie.  It estimates the primary use of energy sources such as sustainable hydropower, modern biomass, wind, solar, , marine, and geothermal geothermal energy tripling by 2035.  According to the World Energy Outlook-2010, renewable energy sources will see their contribution to the global energy supply grow from 7% to 14%.

The IEA’s chief economist Fatih Birol said that renewable energy subsidies are expected to increase to US$ 110 billion in 2015 and US$ 205 billion in 2035.  In its report the Agency urged the subsidies for fossil fuels to be slashed in order to allow for a faster transition to renewable energy and to meet the emissions targest climate scientists deem are necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change from occurring.

The IEA’s Executive Director, Nabuo Tanaka said, “[The] WEO-2010 demonstrates that it is what governments do, and how that action affects technology, the price of energy services and end-user behaviour, that will shape the future of energy in the longer term. “We need to use energy more efficiently and we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels by adopting technologies that leave a much smaller carbon footprint.”

Oil Price Escalation on the Way Due to Lack of Climate Action?

Sadly, much more than concern for future generations or concern for other creatures on the planet, a slight reduction in the amount of money in people’s wallets (or the number of new gadgets or clothes they can buy) may be the biggest driver of environmentally-responsible behavioral change. Well, it looks like this driving factor may be on the move.

In its annual World Energy Outlook report, the International Energy Agency warned yesterday that the failure last year to create a meaningful climate agreement in Copenhagen and weak implementation of the general goals that were agreed upon is likely to result in considerable oil price escalations.

One of the most important conclusions from the report is that under a business-as-usual model, global energy demand will increase 36% by 2035. Of course, most of the projected increase (93%) is from expected growth in the developing world, and 36%  of it (odd coincidence) is due to expected growth in China.

With modern society still quite reliant (over-reliant, some might say..) on oil, the report predicted that oil prices will almost double by 2035, increasing to about $ 113 per barrel (in 2009 dollars) by 2035.

As we all know by now, China is leading the way on clean energy in many respects. It is pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into clean energy, including some humongous solar and wind energy projects.

But the country, like others around the world, also gives plenty of subsidies to fossil fuels. And until that is addressed, fossil fuel use will dramatically increase in the fast-growing country as well.

The clear message is that unless we get off fossil fuels fast, we are going to get hit with major energy price increases in the years to come.

And one of the best ways to get off fossil fuels fast is to cut the subsidies.

“The IEA delivers a blunt message ahead of Cancun that cleaning up our energy systems now is cheaper than delay,” UK energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne bluntly said. “We need to go further and faster in getting ourselves off the oil hook – and on to clean green growth. Greater energy independence – with more renewables, clean coal and nuclear – is the best way to protect our consumers and our country from energy shocks to come.”

Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo Outlines Environmental Agenda for New York

Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo released a 160-page environmental agenda for New York on Saturday, October 30, three days before he was elected to be New York’s next Governor on January 1st, 2011. The document allows some insight into the vision and priorities of the next administration with regard to the environment.

One of the most significant components of the agenda is an overall vision of promoting and talking about environmental protection in the context of economic development in the State. It emphasizes that “environmental protection can benefit our economy—creating green jobs while reducing pollution…”[1] The environmental agenda, like other parts of Cuomo’s published agenda for reforming New York State, proposes review and reform of the state’s environmental bureaucracy to maximize environmental protection and coordination among agencies, and create cost savings. The Governor-elect would task the state’s Spending and Government Efficiency Commission with this review of existing agencies and procedures.[2]

The document also suggests that Governor-elect Cuomo will be as much about the carrot as the stick when it comes to promoting conservation. He proposes a “Cleaner Greener Communities Competitive Grant Program” to help create incentives for sustainable communities, encourage smart growth, and reduce sprawl. The grants would support innovative comprehensive regional plans which incorporate sustainability, transportation, emissions and efficiency issues into the planning framework.[3] Where the funds for such a grant program will come from is not spelled out.

Cuomo’s environmental agenda supports the continuation of New York’s Brownfield Cleanup Program (”BCP”), including the tax credits component, while streamlining the BCP process to ensure its effective use on those sites that need it most.[4] The document does not address the State’s participation in the Federal Superfund program, from which current Governor David Paterson has proposed to withdraw.

California’s Air Quality Plan to be Rejected by the EPA

Yesterday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to disapprove plans developed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The air quality plans aimed to bring areas with poor air quality such as the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley into attainment with national health standards for particulate emissions. The fine particulates, known as PM2.5 are notoriously bad in places like Los Angeles and the surrounding area.

EPA requires the states to submit a plan on how health-based air quality standards will be met in areas that are currently non-attainment zones. They are set to reject California’s plan because the emission reductions rules have not been submitted to EPA for review. EPA needs California to demonstrate that their new rules will achieve its air quality goals.

“California has a history of adopting aggressive rules to tackle some of the worst air quality in the nation, but we need to redouble our efforts,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “EPA will continue to work with California to strengthen measures to improve air quality for the millions of residents in the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley.”

Parts of CARB’s plan will be approved by EPA. For example, there are emission reductions rules from state and local agencies that have already been approved. These pre-approved rules include emissions control from various industrial processes along the South Coast, and even rules governing residential wood-burning.

A final decision from EPA on their rejection of California’s plan is set to be made next year. If the plans are officially disapproved, and corrections are not made in a timely manner, EPA would apply certain sanctions. This may include imposing more stringent facility permitting requirements after 18 months and imposing highway funding restrictions after 24 months from the date of final disapproval.

Largest U.S. Biodiesel Plant Begins Production at 2,500 BPD

Shares Syntroleum Corporation (NASDAQ: SYNM) declined only slightly yesterday (and recovered today) after the company reported another quarter of depressed financial results.

The share price might have fallen more had not investors received some good news with the bad: The company’s new biodiesel plant at Geismar, Louisiana, the largest commercial scale biodiesel facility in the United States, is now producing and selling biodiesel formulated as jet fuel to the United States Air Force Research Laboratory.

Other news: EnerNoc, Inc. (NASDAQ: ENOC), LDK Solar Co. Ltd. (NYSE: LDK), JA Solar Holdings Co. Ltd. (NYSE: JASO)

For months it looked like Syntroleum’s new Geismar plant might be mothballed without any commercial production.

The $ 170 million plant was conceived by Syntroleum and its 50/50 joint venture partner Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE: TSN) in 2007 and partially financed in late 2008 by $ 100 million of tax free bonds from a legacy fund established to help the Gulf region’s economy recover from  Hurricane Katrina. When construction began the biodiesel industry was booming, but the sector came crashing down when federal tax incentives expired at the end of 2009.

The plant was completed in July 2010, but there was no word of any production until Syntroleum announced yesterday that the plant has actually been converting animal fats and waste restaurant grease into 2,500 barrels of biodiesel a day for more than a month and the rate of production is increasing.

Syntroleum’s announcement did not explain why it waited until Monday to disclose the commencement of commercial operations.

Tyson and Syntroleum officials said they remain hopeful that Congress will restore the $ 1 per gallon renewable diesel tax credit that expired in December 2009. They did not provide guidance on the Geimar plant’s economics with and without the $ 1 per gallon tax credit.

In its Q3 (nine months) ended September 30, 2010 financial results, Syntroleum reported a net loss of $ 3.88 million ($ 4.5 million for nine months) on revenues of $ 1.26 million ($ 6.79 million for nine months), compared with 2009’s net loss of $ 0.27 million (net income of $ 7.10 million for nine months) on revenue of $ 4.4 million ($ 26.29 million for nine months).

The company’s cash position at September 30, 2010 was $ 20.83 million, compared with $ 25 million at December 31, 2009. Syntroleum has invested $ 34.3 million in the joint venture with Tyson Foods as of September 30, 2010 and funded an additional $ 5.0 million in October, 2010.

America’s Energy Question: What Price Will it Take to Commit to Renewable Energy?

The economic recession has hit renewable energy industries in the United States hard, and the effects have been accentuated by the country’s lack of national renewable energy policy.

Many renewable energy businesses have found it increasingly difficult to receive money from financial institutions since 2008.  Yet, even when the finances have been in order, these companies have seen their projects halted by regulatory bodies which deem the cost of their energy as an added expense to the already tight monthly budget for American consumers.

The New York Times reports that deals for utilities to purchase renewable energy have been delayed in states such as Virginia, Idaho, Kentucky, and Florida.  Michael Polsky, the owner of Invenergy, a wind farm company, says his contract to sell energy to a utility in Virginia was rejected by state regulators.  The regulators cited the recession in their decision, and stated that energy produced by natural gas was a cheaper and better option for ratepayers — wind power would have increased monthly bills by 0.2%.

The cost of producing renewable energy is still higher than fossil fuel production.  However, as the technology continues to improve and fossil fuels prices increase, analysts say the costs will become competitive.  Nevertheless, the United States has yet to commit whole-heartedly to clean energy.

Paul Gipe, a member of the steering committee of the Alliance for Renewable Energy – an organization advocating energy policy reform — says lack of commitment comes from a nation-wide failure to confront the tough question:  “We have to ask ourselves, ‘Do we really want renewables?’ And if the answer is yes, then we’re going to have to pay for them.”

China and the European Union have each shown a willingness to pay for renewable energy.  The latest research from Ernst & Young states China has become the most attractive area for cleantech investment.  Meanwhile, governments across Europe have modified their energy policies to mandate renewable energy generation.  Even though some policies have been more effective than others, they are all working toward meeting the European Union’s target of generating 20% of its energy from renewable energy by 2020.

So far the United States has relied on individual states enacting their own renewable energy standards and federal government grants for renewable energy projects.  Even without a full-scale commitment from the federal government, renewable energy continues to grow in America — a statement of the industry’s robustness.

Fossil fuels are cheaper than renewable energy sources, and most likely will remain so for the near future.  Price, however, is more inclusive than just dollars and cents; it now must account for environmental cost and long-term sustainability.  The 21st century economy will have to reflect a more acute awareness of the environment as well as the accessiblity of vital resources, such as energy supply.

This current recession will end, but the enduring American energy question is likely to remain:  what price will it take to commit to the new energy economy?

Bringing Next-Gen Solar PV from the Lab to Market

California — Solar advocates usually fall into one of two categories: Either you believe that today’s conventional thin films and crystalline PV technologies will enable mass penetration of solar, or you believe that some fundamental technological breakthrough is needed.

Favorable changes in the economics of the current generation of PV technologies is making the first scenario most likely. But that isn’t stopping companies and research teams from experimenting with semiconducting polymers, inks and other materials in the hopes of changing the solar paradigm.

Experimenting in the lab is the easy part. Bringing third and fourth-generation solar technologies to commercial scale and proving them in the marketplace is much more difficult. We held a roundtable at last month’s Solar Power International conference (which you can watch below) on creating a pathway to market for exotic technologies. Here are three key needs for the industry, as outlined by the panel:

Establish Testing Standards

The reliability and testing standards in conventional PV are well-established; not so for organic and dye-sensitized cells. The lack of continuity in testing has allowed labs to publish inconsistent data about the performance of devices. The same is true of companies doing internal testing.

Damoder Reddy, CEO of Solexant, a company producing nano-crystal semiconducting inks, said that the accuracy of reported efficiencies “is all over the place.”

That’s not a good thing for investors who need to be confident in the claims made by companies.

In 2007, a well-respected NREL researcher publicly criticized another researcher at Wake Forest University for using poor testing methods that inflated the efficiency of an organic solar cell from Konarka by 50%. The disagreement highlighted how differently labs were using equipment and interpreting data.

In order to avoid this type of conflict and ensure consistent results, there’s been a greater push to establish a set of standards for equipment and measuring techniques in the organic PV space. Until that happens, investors should examine efficiency and lifetime claims with a very critical eye.

“We need to…compare apples to apples and maintain industry credibility,” said Vishal Shrotriya, director of the Lifetime Project for Solarmer Energy, a company developing plastic solar cells for building-integrated applications and portable electronic devices.

Test Early, Test Often

Getting these nascent solar technologies ready for market is about far more than finding the initial efficiency of the cell; it’s about testing the device as a function of an entire system. You can’t get those results in a lab, said Jennifer Granata, team leader of the PV testing and reliability team at Sandia National Laboratories.

“You need to know how to test, how to test outdoors quickly, and test to failure,” Granata said.

Sandia examines every kind of technology, from crystalline-silicon PV to dye-sensitized thin films. By taking a systems-level approach to testing, researchers at Sandia create models to determine energy production in varying locations, how a system will perform with different components and how long the system will last. Granata calls the performance of third and fourth-generation solar technologies “very mixed.”

While peak and stabilized efficiencies are important, she said, “it’s all about kilowatt-hours. If you can’t get electrons out for a long time, it doesn’t matter how big your manufacturing plant is.”

The above-mentioned Konarka recently built a 1-GW manufacturing facility for its plastic solar cells. But the market hasn’t demanded anywhere close to a GW of demand. That’s because low lifetimes (a couple years) and low efficiencies (3-5 percent) limit the applications of plastic solar cells mostly to charging consumer electronics and other portable devices. Until organic PV companies can greatly improve those two factors by doing aggressive testing in the field, the market for such technologies will be very niche.

But that might not always be a bad thing.

Find a Niche

Rapid degradation and low efficiencies make most exotic materials uncompetitive with conventional technologies that have proven lifetimes of 25-30 years. Unless, of course, you’re not looking to beat those technologies.

Plastic solar cells and solar inks aren’t going to match up head-to-head with crystalline PV. So rather than try to enter that market, Solarmer’s Vishal Shrotriya said that companies need to exploit the niche they’re suited for. It’s okay that organic PV stays in the realm of consumer electronics and recreational applications if that’s where it works best, he said.

Shrotriya also pointed to the building-integrated market where transparent plastic solar cells could be installed on windows. Assuming an organic PV module lasts 5-10 years (where many researchers think the technology will be in the next 5 years), that could potentially match well with the replacement of windows.

“It’s about finding the right business model for your product. You don’t have to be as efficient or stable to enter the market,” Shrotriya said.

So even if this new generation of solar technologies can’t reach the scale of cadmium-telluride thin film or crystalline-PV in a short time horizon, there are still opportunities for companies to bring them to market.

To hear the full discussion on commercializing next-generation solar, watch the video below or listen to the podcast, linked above.

Three Major Solar PV Funding Rounds Close

El Cajon, California, USA – This week saw the close of three major financing deals for solar developers in China, Europe and the U.S.

The first was a $ 100 million investment from Wells Fargo in a Chinese polysilicon producer and PV project developer, GCL Solar Energy. GCL says it will use the capital to develop projects for schools, government buildings and utilities. Wells Fargo has already poured around $ 2 billion into the renewable energy sector since 2006, mostly in the form of tax equity.

The entrance of this Chinese firm into the U.S. is evidence that foreign players are increasingly eyeing the country as the next booming solar market. Last month, the Solar Energy Industries Association said that the American market could realistically be 10 GW per year by 2020.

The second round of financing went to Borrego Solar for six PV projects worth $ 36 million. U.S. Bank and East West Bank led the round. The California projects include a 1.2-MW system at Madera Community Hospital and a 1.8-MW system for the San Diego County Water Authority.

Borrego will sell power to the site owners under power purchase agreements.

The third major announcement came from the U.S.-based private equity firm First Reserve Corporation, which entered into a euro 276 million project financing agreement to acquire a 70-MW PV plant in Italy. The project was originally developed by Sun Edison.

Six different banks participated in the financing agreement.

These are just three more pieces of proof that with a solid project, there’s still money available.

Researchers Aim to Harvest Solar Energy from Pavement to Melt Ice, Power Streetlights

ScienceDaily (Nov. 9, 2010) — The heat radiating off roadways has long been a factor in explaining why city temperatures are often considerably warmer than nearby suburban or rural areas. Now a team of engineering researchers from the University of Rhode Island is examining methods of harvesting that solar energy to melt ice, power streetlights, illuminate signs, heat buildings and potentially use it for many other purposes.

“We have mile after mile of asphalt pavement around the country, and in the summer it absorbs a great deal of heat, warming the roads up to 140 degrees or more,” said K. Wayne Lee, URI professor of civil and environmental engineering and the leader of the joint project. “If we can harvest that heat, we can use it for our daily use, save on fossil fuels, and reduce global warming.”

The URI team has identified four potential approaches, from simple to complex, and they are pursuing research projects designed to make each of them a reality.

One of the simplest ideas is to wrap flexible photovoltaic cells around the top of Jersey barriers dividing highways to provide electricity to power streetlights and illuminate road signs. The photovoltaic cells could also be embedded in the roadway between the Jersey barrier and the adjacent rumble strip.

“This is a project that could be implemented today because the technology already exists,” said Lee. “Since the new generation of solar cells are so flexible, they can be installed so that regardless of the angle of the sun, it will be shining on the cells and generating electricity. A pilot program is progressing for the lamps outside Bliss Hall on campus.”

Another practical approach to harvesting solar energy from pavement is to embed water filled pipes beneath the asphalt and allow the sun to warm the water. The heated water could then be piped beneath bridge decks to melt accumulated ice on the surface and reduce the need for road salt. The water could also be piped to nearby buildings to satisfy heating or hot water needs, similar to geothermal heat pumps. It could even be converted to steam to turn a turbine in a small, traditional power plant.

Graduate student Andrew Correia has built a prototype of such a system in a URI laboratory to evaluate its effectiveness, thanks to funding from the Korea Institute for Construction Technology. By testing different asphalt mixes and various pipe systems, he hopes to demonstrate that the technology can work in a real world setting.

“One property of asphalt is that it retains heat really well,” he said, “so even after the sun goes down the asphalt and the water in the pipes stays warm. My tests showed that during some circumstances, the water even gets hotter than the asphalt.”

A third alternative uses a thermo-electric effect to generate a small but usable amount of electricity. When two types of semiconductors are connected to form a circuit linking a hot and a cold spot, there is a small amount of electricity generated in the circuit.

URI Chemistry Professor Sze Yang believes that thermo-electric materials could be embedded in the roadway at different depths — or some could be in sunny areas and others in shade — and the difference in temperature between the materials would generate an electric current. With many of these systems installed in parallel, enough electricity could be generated to defrost roadways or be used for other purposes. Instead of the traditional semiconductors, he proposes to use a family of organic polymeric semiconductors developed at his laboratory that can be fabricated inexpensively as plastic sheets or painted on a flexible plastic sheet.

“This is a somewhat futuristic idea, since there isn’t any practical device on the market for doing this, but it has been demonstrated to work in a laboratory,” said Yang. “With enough additional research, I think it can be implemented in the field.”

Perhaps the most futuristic idea the URI team has considered is to completely replace asphalt roadways with roadways made of large, durable electronic blocks that contain photovoltaic cells, LED lights and sensors. The blocks can generate electricity, illuminate the roadway lanes in interchangeable configurations, and provide early warning of the need for maintenance.

According to Lee, the technology for this concept exists, but it is extremely expensive. He said that one group in Idaho made a driveway from prototypes of these blocks, and it cost about $ 100,000. Lee envisions that corporate parking lots may become the first users of this technology before they become practical and economical for roadway use.”This kind of advanced technology will take time to be accepted by the transportation industries,” Lee said. “But we’ve been using asphalt for our highways for more than 100 years, and pretty soon it will be time for a change.”

Coalition says money could flow from Green Bank next year

The Green Investment Bank (GIB) could be making its first investments in low-carbon infrastructure before the end of next year, according to senior figures at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

According to departmental business plans released earlier this week, the bank’s initial £1bn of funding from BIS is not due until 2013/14, but officials confirmed last night that it could deploy proceeds from the sale of government-owned assets in late 2011 and throughout 2012.

The news has been welcomed by private investment managers, who encouraged the government to “just get on with it” and launch the bank as soon as possible.

Speaking at a GIB summit organised by cross-party lobbying body the Aldersgate Group last night in London, Martin Donolley, permanent undersecretary for BIS, said the coalition is “passionate about accelerating development” of the GIB.

The government has already said it will establish the governance arrangements and business operating model for the GIB by the end of May 2011, ready for an official launch by the end of December next year. But Donolley said the timeline could be accelerated further.

“We may manage to bring forward some aspects of this timetable and announce elements of the structural detail of this institution before the end of this year,” he said. “It is possible that the GIB could be in a position to make its first investments within six to 12 months of the next announcement in the spring.”

The move was immediately welcomed by private investment managers sharing a platform with Donolley.

“Many of us in the private sector take the view that speed is of the essence,” said James Wardlaw, managing director of investment banking at Goldman Sachs. “[The GIB] might not be perfectly formed to begin with, but let’s just get on with it, create it and shape it, and it will evolve as an institution.”

The GIB’s main aim is to “mobilise private capital”, according to BIS, and a measure of its success would be the public/private investment gearing it could achieve.

“I welcome the sense of pace [BIS] has given to this and I do think it’s important that momentum is maintained … because there is now considerable latent demand in the private sector,” said Nick Robbins, head of HSBC’s climate change centre.

His comments were echoed by Peter Young, chair of the Aldersgate Group, who predicted the bank would stimulate private sector investment in low-carbon projects.

“Bringing forward these capitalisations is essential, particularly the opportunity to advance some of the receipts from asset sales and get those up and running before the end of next year,” he said. “I noticed the government has been quick off the mark in selling the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. I don’t know who has got their hands on that money, but it would be good to see some of it coming the way of the GIB. The private sector is desperate to join in, but we can’t do it until those commitments are made.”

Skirmishes escalate between Republicans and EPA

It may be just a week since the Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives, but the battle to overturn regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is already intensifying, with the agency rejecting accusations that its actions are damaging the economy.

Republicans have been waging a co-ordinated campaign against many of the regulations that the EPA is in the process of introducing, arguing they will impose an onerous regulatory burden on firms that will lead to increased unemployment.

In a letter to the EPA last month, Representative Joe Barton, who is the top-ranking Republican on the House’s Energy and Commerce Committee and is in the running to chair the influential committee in the next Congress, accused the EPA of failing to properly consider the economic impact of a variety of proposed environmental regulations including new ozone standards, greenhouse gas emission rules and other air pollution limits.

He said that at least eight new rules from the EPA would have compliance costs of more than $ 1bn (£624m), adding that he was “concerned about the highly accelerated pace at which EPA is issuing complex and expensive regulatory proposals”.

But on Monday EPA administrator Lisa Jackson rejected Barton’s analysis, releasing a letter that suggested Barton’s letter and an accompanying chart displaying the economic impacts of the EPA’s actions had willfully ignored the economic benefits that will arise from tighter regulations and which outweigh the economic costs.

“Those benefits projections can be found in the same documents from which the cost projections were drawn,” Jackson wrote. “Had the chart included the benefits projections, readers of it would have [been] able to see that the projected benefits of EPA’s pollution reduction rules under the Clean Air Act exceed the projected costs by 13 to one.”

The letter provides further evidence that the EPA and the Obama administration are willing to fight Republican efforts to limit its powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

It also provides a trailer for the battles that are expected next year when the Republicans take control of key House Committees.

Barton is one of the front runners to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee and has already signalled that he plans to launch a probe into the EPA’s activities.

Meanwhile, re-elected Republican governor Rick Perry confirmed that he would continue to fight EPA efforts to ensure new industrial facilities meet minimum emissions standards.

Speaking following his election victory Perry said that Texans were “tired of the government killing jobs with their do-gooder policies that have nothing to do with science or economics”, promising to continue to oppose new EPA rules.

According to reports, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott has filed seven lawsuits against the EPA in the past nine months, adding to a host of separate suits against the agency from other states and business groups, all of which challenge its decision that it is entitled to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

E.P.A. Subpoenas Halliburton on Fracking

The Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday it had subpoenaed Halliburton for information on the chemicals it uses for hydraulic fracturing, a natural gas drilling technique involving the high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to break up rock formations.

In a statement, the E.P.A. said it had made a voluntary request for the information from eight other major drilling companies, all of which had either provided the information or pledged full cooperation by early December.

By contrast, Halliburton said only that it would “endeavor to complete its response” by the end of January, according to a letter accompanying the subpoena by Peter S. Silva, the agency’s assistant administrator for water.

“E.P.A. believes that Halliburton’s response is inadequate and inconsistent with the cooperation shown to date by the other eight companies,” Mr. Silva wrote.

In a statement, Halliburton said Tuesday that it was working in a “good faith effort” with the E.P.A. but called the agency’s information request unreasonable.

“We are disappointed by the E.P.A.’s decision today,” Teresa Wong, a Halliburton spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail message. “Halliburton welcomes any federal court’s examination of our good faith efforts with the E.P.A. to date.”

The E.P.A. is conducting a congressionally mandated study on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, on drinking water supplies. A 2005 vote in Congress exempted the practice from regulation by the Clean Water Act after a 2004 federal study determined that the practice posed little threat to human health.

As hydraulic fracturing has grown by leaps and bounds, calls for greater oversight and study of the practice have intensified, however.

A 2009 Congressional spending bill supplied nearly $ 2 million for further study of the drilling technique and ordered the E.P.A. to carry it out. The study is expected to be finished by 2012.

The companies that have already complied with the information request or pledged their full cooperation are BJ Services, Complete Production Services, Key Energy Services, Patterson-UTI, RPC, Inc., Schlumberger, Superior Well Services and Weatherford.

The E.P.A.’s announcement came as Halliburton came under a microscope on another front, at hearings by a presidential commission on the causes of this year’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Preliminary findings by the commission have raised concerns about the cement used by the company to seal the well.

Charting China’s Energy Explosion

If your gasoline and electricity bills go up in the years to come, and you want to blame someone other than yourself, a new report by the International Energy Agency has some ammunition for you.

In its annual global energy report, issued on Tuesday, the International Energy Agency predicted that China’s push for rapid economic development will dominate global energy markets and be the single biggest force in spurring higher oil prices and carbon dioxide emissions linked to climate change over the next quarter-century.

There are 1.3 billion Chinese in the world today, and currently they each use about one-third the amount of electricity as the average European or North American. But that’s changing, so watch your wallet.

The agency predicted that Chinese energy demand will soar 75 percent by 2035, accounting for more than a third of total global consumption growth. While China today accounts for 17 percent of the world demand for energy, it should account for 22 percent in 25 years, while India and other developing countries will also expand their energy use.

I caught up with Fatih Birol, the agency’s chief economist, and he told me, “Chinese energy demand will grow by such huge terms it will put pressure on the global energy markets in terms of oil, coal and, to a lesser extent, natural gas.”

The expansion in Chinese energy consumption has already been breathtaking, according to the report. Over the last decade China’s energy demand has doubled. While China used only half as much energy as the United States in 2000, it actually surpassed the United States in 2009 as the world’s largest energy user.

China’s thirst for energy is leading it to build coal-fired power plants but also wind farms at a record pace, and to invest in energy sources around the world, from oil fields in Sudan, to hydroelectric power in Burma to natural gas fields in south Texas. Beijing’s ability to raise hundreds of millions of people into the middle class over the coming years will largely be based on its ability to produce more energy, and its foreign policies can also be expected to follow its energy interests.

The agency’s prognosis for Chinese energy use is a challenge to efforts to control climate change, but it is not entirely bleak.

With $ 735 billion in investment plans over the next decade in nuclear, wind, solar and biomass projects, China is becoming a world leader in low-carbon energy output, the report said.

“Given the sheer scale of China’s domestic market, its push to increase the share of new low-carbon energy technologies could play an important role in driving down their costs through faster rates of technology learning and economies of scale,” it said.

The study offered many predictions about demand and supply of various fuels around the world but also concluded that there were many uncertainties. It wondered whether capture and storage technology for carbon dioxide would ever become commercially available for the purpose of increasing clean coal-fired electricity generation. It wondered whether biofuels production from crops like corn can be sustainable for food supplies.

“One point is certain,” the report concluded. “The center of gravity of global energy demand growth now lies in the developing world, especially in China and India.”

Climate Progress

Newsweek’s Idea of a Moderate Democrat: Liberal North Dakota Congressman with Single-Digit ACU Score in 2009

October 26, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Newsweek — the floundering weekly news magazine that was recently sold for the princely sum of $ 1.00 – apparently assigns a pretty low value on the intelligence of its readers. Take yesterday's online article by David Graham on the reelection campaign of the at-large congressman for North Dakota: "Meet Earl Pomeroy, the Moderate Democrat Touting His Health-Reform Vote."

"Can one Blue Dog’s unorthodox ad strategy localize his election and head off the demise of another incumbent?" asked the subheadline.

Of course, both the moderate and Blue Dog tags bring to mind a Democrat that perhaps agrees with the liberal leadership of his party about half of the time, but is fairly independent and conservative-minded on a whole host of issues. Trouble is, this is precisely what Pomeroy is not, according to both the liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) and the American Conservative Union (ACU).

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NewsBusters.org – Exposing Liberal Media Bias

National Debt Up $ 3,000,000,000,000 Since Inauguration Day 2009

October 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

CBS News reporter Mark Knoller notes a rather inauspicious milestone:

New numbers posted today on the Treasury Department website show the National Debt has increased by more than $ 3 trillion since President Obama took office.

The National Debt stood at $ 10.626 trillion the day Mr. Obama was inaugurated. The Bureau of Public Debt reported today that the National Debt had hit an all time high of $ 13.665 trillion.

The Debt increased $ 4.9 trillion during President Bush’s two terms. The Administration has projected the National Debt will soar in Mr. Obama’s fourth year in office to nearly $ 16.5-trillion in 2012. That’s more than 100 percent of the value of the nation’s economy and $ 5.9-trillion above what it was his first day on the job.

That’s just not good news no matter which way you look at it.




Outside the Beltway

Hume Claims ‘Almost None Of The Stimulus Money’ Had Been Spent When Recession Ended In June 2009

September 27, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Yesterday on Fox News Sunday’s online-only “Panel Plus” segment, Juan Williams noted that in the previous segment that aired on television, Brit Hume was giving “the Republican narrative” on the Recovery Act — that it was “a huge blunder and it has come back to bite the Democrats and is so unpopular with the voters.” When Williams noted that “you never hear” about the successes, like the fact that unemployment would currently be much higher without the stimulus, Hume chimed in with another misleading Republican narrative — that the stimulus did nothing to get the country out of recession:

HUME: For one thing we know that there recession ended now according to the National Bureau of Economic Research [NBER] in June of 2009. Almost none of the stimulus money had gone out the door so the recession ended more or less on its own than by virtue of the actions of the fed which are always more potent than anything Congress does.

Watch it:

The NBER did indeed announce its findings recently that the recession officially ended in June 2009, but Hume’s claim that “almost none of the stimulus money had gone out the door” by then is simply not true. According to the Council of Economic Advisers, in its second quarterly report on the stimulus, by the end of June 2009, the federal government spent $ 93 billion of Recovery Act monies on tax relief to individuals and small businesses, state relief and government contracts.

Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi told the Los Angeles Times that it “was during that month [June 2009] that the spending from the Recovery Act stimulus was at its maximum.” Indeed, in a report out in July 2010, Zandi and former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder found that “the stimulus has done what it was supposed to do: end the Great Recession and spur recovery”:

We do not believe it a coincidence that the turnaround from recession to recovery occurred last summer, just as the ARRA was providing its maximum economic benefit. […] What matters for economic growth is the pace of stimulus spending, which surged from nothing at the start of 2009 to over $ 100 billion (over $ 400 billion at an annual rate) in the second quarter. That is a big change in a short period, and it is one major reason why the Great Recession ended and recovery began last summer.

And like Williams noted, the Congressional Budget Office found recently that the Recovery Act “increased the number of full-time-equivalent jobs by 2.0 million to 4.8 million compared with what would have occurred otherwise.”

Think Progress

Sharon Angle Big Bungle? Disdains Autism Insurance Coverage in 2009

September 25, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In this day and age where political operatives try to find bits of video or writings that conflict with an image an opposing candidate is trying to craft, one politician who has made it easy for the other side is Nevada Republican candidate for Senate Sharon Angle — with her comments against social security, fleeing reporters, and deciding only to allow herself to be interviewed by Republican p.r. official Fox News’ conservative talk show host Sean Hannity. Will a piece of video that has just been uncovered have the kind of legs that were as enduring as the chicken feet that sunk GOPer Sue Lowden via a politically fowl video?

Perhaps. A 2009 video has come out showing her criticize mandated insurance coverage for autism. And it could not come at a worse time for Angle — when polls find her tied in her race for Senate against Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid. Here’s the video:
Click here to view the embedded video.

And now a controversy has erupted:

The national Autistic Self Advocacy Network on Friday called for Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle to apologize for a statement she made regarding health care and autism treatment.

Video of Angle speaking at a 2009 Tea Party rally surfaced this week. In it the former state legislator slams Democratic health care policies.

“You’re paying for things that you don’t even need, they just passed the latest one is every, everything they want to throw at us now is covered under autism, so that’s a mandate that you have to pay for,” she said, making air quotes around the word “autism.”

The Nevada Democratic Party posted a video of the speech on YouTube.

“We’re concerned by the Angle campaign’s claim that individuals and families ‘falsely label other symptoms as autism’ in order to take advantage of insurance mandates,” the ASAN said in a statement. “Lack of insurance coverage for habilitative services, such as occupational therapy and speech pathology services, is a barrier to the civil rights of autistic Americans both young and old.”

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent:

Dems are hoping that Angle’s autism moment, which they are portraying as heartless and cruel, will take on the same kind of let-them-eat-cake aura and momentum that “chickens for checkups” ultimately did. Of course, Sue Lowden was the one gave “chickens for checkups” its legs by ham-handedly confirming that poultry barter for health care is a legitimate policy prescription. Angle and her campaign, for all their early missteps, have sharped up a good deal in recent weeks and won’t do anything so inept.

Also: You just never know which incidents and gaffes will take on the kind of defining quality that “chickens for checkups” did. That some take on a life of their own and others sink like a rock is one of the mysteries of politics. This one doesn’t seem quite on that level.

But the autism moment is, however, beginning to gain some traction: The Nevada media is on the story, and autism advocacy groups are now calling on Angle to apologize.

Blue Wave News:

Sharron Angle thinks that she, with no grounding in medicine or any scientific field, understands autism better than the experts who have defined the autism spectrum. She thinks she is qualified to dismiss the spectrum as an attempt by doctors to sweep a variety of unrelated symptoms under the umbrella of autism, thereby allowing people to get mandated coverage for autism when they really don’t “have” autism.

And she is compounding this nasty arrogance by suggesting that mandates for coverage of autism are inherently wrong and unfair. And she can afford to have such an attitude because she has been fortunate enough to not have an autistic child and face the nightmare of trying to nail down a diagnosis and then an effective course of treatment, to locate and access programs to help the child in education and socialization, etc. Angle doesn’t have these problems, so why should she be forced to pay for that mandated coverage?

Like most ideologically rigid self-centered people, Angle views her life as completely under her control. She may credit God as the one doing the driving, but she smugly believes that God likes her better than those people who have been dealt [bad] hands. Why should she share – even fractionally – in the cost of covering an unplanned pregnancy or autism when God has afflicted other people with these punishments and not her? Rather than thinking “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” Sharron Angle goes through life with an attitude that challenges she hasn’t had to face are other people’s problem.

The Las Vegas Sun’s John Ralston notes that Reid has had a truly lousy week, puts his foot in his own mouth and has his share of flaws — but that Angle has become the gift that keeps on giving:

Unlike Reid’s, Angle’s lips are not loose. They are instead locked into positions that no amount of massaging and spinning can obscure, positions that she seems to recite by rote with no real comprehension of the real-world implications. She can stay on script, all right. But many Republicans think they can see the end of this movie and it’s a train wreck climax.

I sometimes think the Reid folks have a vault labeled “Sharron Angle and the Extremes Greatest Hits,” which they disseminate whenever the time is right. Phase out Medicare and Social Security. Privatize the VA. Not my job to create jobs. The hits just keep on coming.

The Reid folks believe they unearthed another instant classic this week: Angle at a 2009 Tea Party in Winnemucca ridiculing a legislative mandate to cover autism. Team Reid played it as Angle mocking those with the condition, but that was — how shall I say this? — an extreme interpretation. Angle was deriding government’s expansive approval of mandates for illnesses and using autism as an example.

But the real issue with what Angle was saying is that she often mouths conservative shibboleths — mandates bad, privatization good — without any apparent sense of the consequences. There is a superficiality to her philosophy, with an undercurrent of religion always over reason, that indicates she is plagued by a different kind of carelessness than is Reid, but one that is perhaps more dangerous.

Call it, as the progressive blogger Desert Beacon did, “compassionless conservatism.” Or just call it a one-philosophy-fits-all approach to a complex world.

So is it better to re-elect the careless four-termer with juice who drives the Democrats’ agenda and is likely to say more intemperate things in the next six years? Or is it better to elect the careless woman who will likely be marginalized in the Club of 100 because of her strange statements but will reliably vote no unless God tells her otherwise?

That, alas, is what the Nevada Senate race has come down to.


The Moderate Voice

Which Malik Shabazz Visited White House in July 2009, Mr. President?

September 24, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In May 2009, the Obama/Holder Justice Department dropped charges in a voter intimidation case against Malik Shabazz, a leader of the New Black Panther Party, despite having already won a summary judgment against him, and his New Black Panther Party callegues King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson who were video-taped outside polling place in Philadelphia intimidating voters as they arrived on election day, 2008.  In July 2009, when Congress began looking into the matter, someone named Malik Shabazz visited the private residence at the White House.

malik-shabazz

When news of the visit was released under the auspices of transparency, the White House denied that the Malik Shabazz on the visitor’s log was the same Malik Shabazz involved in the New Black Panther voter intimidation case.  According to Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, the records contained “a few “false positives” – names that make you think of a well-known person, but are actually someone else.”  He specifically cited Malik Shabazz as an example of one of these “false positives”.

At the time, the media did not challenge the White House on the veracity of this claim.  The White House’s position was, basically: “We’re being transparent, here are all the visitor logs, and this guy is not the guy you think he is, TRUST US.”

The great thing about transparency – when there is actual transparency – is that it renders trust unnecessary.  We ask that the White House identify which Malik Shabazz visited the White House residence on July 25, 2009.

In July 2010,  J. Christian Adams, former attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Dept. of Justice, testified before the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights that Obama Appointee Julie Fernandes, deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division in charge of voting matters, told DOJ attorneys charged with enforcing Voters’ Rights Law that the Obama administration would not file election-related cases against minority defendants — no matter the alleged violation of law.

According to Adams, that policy is what allowed Malik Shabazz and Jerry Jackson to walk away without punishment and weapon wielding King Samir Shabazz to receive a wrist-slap sentence that merely prohibits him from appearing at a polling place until after 2012.

Although the Administration has tried to ignore the New Black Panther scandal, their apologists have contended the story was nothing more than a conspiracy theory of the right-wing spun by a lone, partisan, disaffected lawyer looking for attention on Fox News.  But today, Mr. Adams is joined by a fellow government whistle-blower, his former supervisor at the Dept. of Justice.

Today, Christopher Coates, former Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Dept. of Justice, has testified before the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights.  His testimony corroborates J. Christian Adams’ testimony before the same commission in July.  Mr. Coates had originally signed-off on Mr. Adams plan to go forward with the civil charges against Shabazz.  He and Mr. Adams had been ordered by the DOJ not to testify before the commission, and he was subsequently transferred to South Carolina last Christmas.

Coates’ testimony calls into question the Justice Department’s earlier denials that the handling of the New Black Panther case was politically motivated.  And their refusal to allow attorneys at Justice to testify under oath about this case recalls the same attitude toward transparency exemplified by the White House visitor’s log policy:  “We didn’t drop the charges against the Black Panthers because of politics, TRUST US.”

Continuing to say you’re transparent does not mean you are transparent.

The idea that an individual named Malik Shabazz had a private meeting in the White House residence in July 2009 is highly relevant because throughout July, Congressmen Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) were beginning to ask questions about to the dropped charges against the NBPP. So was the United States Commission on Civil Rights.  Here is a timeline, according to Adams:

  • July 8, Representative Frank Wolf sent a letter to Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and Ranking Member Lamar Smith demanding hearings before the House Judiciary Committee.
  • July 9, Ten members of the House sent a letter demanding the DOJ Inspector General open an investigation.
  • July 13, The Dept. of Justice replied but their letter contained factual inaccuracies about the case
  • July 17  Smith and Wolf send a swift and pointed rebuttal
  • July 20, Low-level DOJ staffers were sent to the Hill to brief Wolf on the Panther story, but Wolf threw them out of his office claiming they weren’t being truthful to him.
  • July 22, Wolf sent another letter to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding answers.
  • July 24, Portia Robinson, intergovernmental liaison at DOJ, sent a letter to the Civil Rights Commission trying to deflect attention.
  • July 25, a man named Malik Shabazz visited the exclusive, private residence in the White House.
  • July 30, the Washington Times broke the news that top political appointee, Tom Perrelli (the #3 official at Justice) was involved in the dismissal of the case.  Perrelli was also a top campaign bundler for Obama.

The White House has assured the American people that the Malik Shabazz that visited the White House at that time is not the same Malik Shabazz at the center of the New Black Panther story.  But, the White House has not provided any information to verify its contention or who this “other” Malik Shabazz is.

We call on the White House to act in the spirit of their transparency policy and provide further information, sufficient to independently verify the identity of the person named Malik Shabazz who visited the White House private residence in July of 2009.


Big Government

Which Malik Shabazz Visited White House in July 2009, Mr. President?

September 24, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In May 2009, the Obama/Holder Justice Department dropped charges in a voter intimidation case against Malik Shabazz, a leader of the New Black Panther Party, despite having already won a summary judgment against him, and his New Black Panther Party callegues King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson who were video-taped outside polling place in Philadelphia intimidating voters as they arrived on election day, 2008.  In July 2009, when Congress began looking into the matter, someone named Malik Shabazz visited the private residence at the White House.

malik-shabazz

When news of the visit was released under the auspices of transparency, the White House denied that the Malik Shabazz on the visitor’s log was the same Malik Shabazz involved in the New Black Panther voter intimidation case.  According to Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, the records contained “a few “false positives” – names that make you think of a well-known person, but are actually someone else.”  He specifically cited Malik Shabazz as an example of one of these “false positives”.

At the time, the media did not challenge the White House on the veracity of this claim.  The White House’s position was, basically: “We’re being transparent, here are all the visitor logs, and this guy is not the guy you think he is, TRUST US.”

The great thing about transparency – when there is actual transparency – is that it renders trust unnecessary.  We ask that the White House identify which Malik Shabazz visited the White House residence on July 25, 2009.

In July 2010,  J. Christian Adams, former attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Dept. of Justice, testified before the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights that Obama Appointee Julie Fernandes, deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division in charge of voting matters, told DOJ attorneys charged with enforcing Voters’ Rights Law that the Obama administration would not file election-related cases against minority defendants — no matter the alleged violation of law.

According to Adams, that policy is what allowed Malik Shabazz and Jerry Jackson to walk away without punishment and weapon wielding King Samir Shabazz to receive a wrist-slap sentence that merely prohibits him from appearing at a polling place until after 2012.

Although the Administration has tried to ignore the New Black Panther scandal, their apologists have contended the story was nothing more than a conspiracy theory of the right-wing spun by a lone, partisan, disaffected lawyer looking for attention on Fox News.  But today, Mr. Adams is joined by a fellow government whistle-blower, his former supervisor at the Dept. of Justice.

Today, Christopher Coates, former Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Dept. of Justice, has testified before the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights.  His testimony corroborates J. Christian Adams’ testimony before the same commission in July.  Mr. Coates had originally signed-off on Mr. Adams plan to go forward with the civil charges against Shabazz.  He and Mr. Adams had been ordered by the DOJ not to testify before the commission, and he was subsequently transferred to South Carolina last Christmas.

Coates’ testimony calls into question the Justice Department’s earlier denials that the handling of the New Black Panther case was politically motivated.  And their refusal to allow attorneys at Justice to testify under oath about this case recalls the same attitude toward transparency exemplified by the White House visitor’s log policy:  “We didn’t drop the charges against the Black Panthers because of politics, TRUST US.”

Continuing to say you’re transparent does not mean you are transparent.

The idea that an individual named Malik Shabazz had a private meeting in the White House residence in July 2009 is highly relevant because throughout July, Congressmen Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) were beginning to ask questions about to the dropped charges against the NBPP. So was the United States Commission on Civil Rights.  Here is a timeline, according to Adams:

  • July 8, Representative Frank Wolf sent a letter to Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and Ranking Member Lamar Smith demanding hearings before the House Judiciary Committee.
  • July 9, Ten members of the House sent a letter demanding the DOJ Inspector General open an investigation.
  • July 13, The Dept. of Justice replied but their letter contained factual inaccuracies about the case
  • July 17  Smith and Wolf send a swift and pointed rebuttal
  • July 20, Low-level DOJ staffers were sent to the Hill to brief Wolf on the Panther story, but Wolf threw them out of his office claiming they weren’t being truthful to him.
  • July 22, Wolf sent another letter to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding answers.
  • July 24, Portia Robinson, intergovernmental liaison at DOJ, sent a letter to the Civil Rights Commission trying to deflect attention.
  • July 25, a man named Malik Shabazz visited the exclusive, private residence in the White House.
  • July 30, the Washington Times broke the news that top political appointee, Tom Perrelli (the #3 official at Justice) was involved in the dismissal of the case.  Perrelli was also a top campaign bundler for Obama.

The White House has assured the American people that the Malik Shabazz that visited the White House at that time is not the same Malik Shabazz at the center of the New Black Panther story.  But, the White House has not provided any information to verify its contention or who this “other” Malik Shabazz is.

We call on the White House to act in the spirit of their transparency policy and provide further information, sufficient to independently verify the identity of the person named Malik Shabazz who visited the White House private residence in July of 2009.


Big Government

Great Recession Ended June 2009

September 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Great news, everybody: The biggest economic calamity since the Great Depression has been over for well over a year.

The Great Recession ended in June 2009, according to the body charged with dating when economic downturns begin and end. But the news comes amid rising fears of a double-dip recession.

The National Bureau of Economic Research, an independent group of economists, released a statement Monday saying economic data now clearly points to the economy turning higher last summer.

That makes the 18-month recession that started in December 2007 the longest and deepest downturn for the U.S. economy since the Great Depression.

The NBER acknowledged the risk of double-dip recession in its statement, but said “The committee decided that any future downturn of the economy would be a new recession and not a continuation of the recession that began in December 2007. The basis for this decision was the length and strength of the recovery to date.”

The committee that made the finding said it “did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity.” Rather, it decided that June was when the economy hit bottom, and that it has been slowly but steadily growing since then.

“Economic activity is typically below normal in the early stages of an expansion, and it sometimes remains so well into the expansion,” said the NBER.

Most economists have been saying for months that the recession likely ended in the summer of 2009.

“No, we are not still in a recession as some people have asserted,” said Barry Ritholtz, CEO of Fusion IQ, a research firm based in New York. “No, it’s not a depression. The wheel has turned, the trough is more than a year behind us. This is not a robust recovery, but the economy is now expanding, not contracting.”

See the full NBER report here.  Ritholz has some more charts and insights at The Big Picture.

This isn’t exactly news, in that we’ve been pretty confident for some time that the technical end of the recession happened last summer.   And, frankly, the announcement is likely to be met with sneers from the general public, what with the flatness of the recovery and the fact that the miserable jobs picture isn’t clearing up anytime soon.

The prospect of a “double dip” is particularly unwelcome.  Ritholtz places the risk in the 20% to 30% range and the most pessimistic put it in the 40% range.

As to whether “the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity,” there’s a very real chance, sadly, that it has.  As Dave Schuler has said repeatedly:  This may well be the recovery.   A lot of the jobs that went away during this crisis are simply not coming back.   And it’s not clear what’s going to replace them in the short- or medium-term.

Update (Steve Verdon):

I don’t find this announcement all that surprising given the growth we’ve been seeing in GDP. However, as James has already mentioned there is concern for a double dip recession as GDP growth has become rather phlegmatic. James Hamilton’s Econbroswer Emoticon has been neutral since August, but he does point out that by itself this does not mean the recession is over. However, he does have another measure that does signify when recessions have begun and ended (note this tool is not predictive, but retrospective), The Econbrowser Recession Indicator Index this indicator put the end of the recession in the second quarter of 2009-i.e. it is consistent with the NBER’s end date of June 2009. As for concerns of a double dip here is James’ post on that.

What I’m still seeing is what I had been expecting and what I continue to expect for the rest of this year- weak growth, but growth nonetheless.

I don’t think this is out of line with Ritholz either. While the above is Prof. Hamilton’s expectations I certainly wouldn’t read that as to preclude the economy slipping back into recession.




Outside the Beltway

Economic panel: The recession ended in June 2009, now quit yer complainin’

September 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 


Bottoms up!

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research this morning, the recession officially ended in June 2009.

Waiting for the new White House “reeducation” campaign to school all of us ignoramuses. Cue “Happy Days are Here Again” and break out the Wagyu beef!

Note well the NBER’s caveats:

The bureau’s Business Cycle Dating Committee, which met Sunday, stresses that it does not conclude that economic conditions since then have been favorable or that the economy has returned the working at a normal capacity, only that from a statistical standpoint the recession ended 14 months ago.

“The trough marks the end of the declining phase and the start of the rising phase of the business cycle,” the bureau says. “Economic activity is typically below normal in the early stages of an expansion, and it sometimes remains so well into the expansion.”

***

Meanwhile in Nevada

Even as thousands of Nevadans abandoned the state’s workforce, unemployment in the Silver State has risen to a record yet again, new numbers reveal.

The latest statistics from the Department of Employment, Training & Rehabilitation show a statewide jobless rate in August of 14.4 percent, up from 14.3 percent in July and 12.5 percent in the same month a year earlier.

Unemployment in Las Vegas fell to 14.7 percent, down from 14.8 percent in July but up from 13 percent in August 2009.

Nationally, joblessness was at 9.6 percent in August.

Since May, Nevada has posted the nation’s highest jobless rate. Roughly 192,000 Nevadans lack jobs and are looking for work, with 142,000 of them living in the Las Vegas Valley.

More than 10,000 workers left the labor pool in August, either because they were too discouraged to seek jobs or because they decided to try their fortunes outside the state.

Harry Reid’s remedy? Why, an illegal alien student bailout, of course!

Michelle Malkin

Unemployment Insurance Kept 3.3 Million Americans Out Of Poverty In 2009

September 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Newly-released data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows “that the fraction of Americans living in poverty rose sharply to 14.3% from 13.2% in 2008—the highest since 1994.” With 43.6 million Americans in poverty, it’s important for progressives to look to policies that can alleviate the country’s poverty problem.

Looking to the Census data, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities’s (CBPP) Arloc Sherman discovers one of these policies. Sherman finds that unemployment insurance kept 3.3 million Americans out of poverty in 2009:

An exclusive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of the new survey data shows that unemployment insurance benefits — which expanded substantially last year in response to the increased need — kept 3.3 million people out of poverty in 2009.

In other words, there were 43.6 million Americans whose families were below the poverty line in 2009, according to the official poverty statistics, which count jobless benefits as part of families’ income. But if you don’t count jobless benefits, 46.9 million Americans were poor.

CBPP illustrates this number through a chart it created:

CBPP

As ThinkProgress has documented, conservatives have done everything they can to delay extensions of unemployment benefits. Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly locked arms to block extending the benefits for unemployed Americans, putting the wellbeing of jobless people in peril. And as the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo notes, a major chunk of 2009’s unemployment benefits were funded by the stimulus bill, which “House Republicans unanimously opposed.”

Conservatives have also demonized Americans — who, in the midst of recession are unable to find decent work — who receive unemployment insurance. NV GOP Senate candidate called the recipients of jobless benefits “spoiled,” former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich complained that “welfare” was keeping Americans from wanting to seek work, and conservative TV personality and Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein said the unemployed in need of benefits are “unpleasant people…who do not know how to do a day’s work.”

Think Progress

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