Rep. Inslee attacks anti-innovation GOP: Move to clean energy “or China is going to eat our lunch”

November 27, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

INSLEE: The fact of the matter is, if we’re going to grow our economy, if we are going to seize the jobs of the next century, we have to get busy focusing our national debate and our national investment on the new clean energy technologies, or China is going to eat our lunch.

China right now is preparing to roll out electric cars, lithium ion batteries, solar cells, cellulosic ethanol. This is where the future of energy is. We’ve a finite resource in oil, just like we had a finite resource in whale oil, and we made a transition. And we have to really focus our national energies in a bipartisan way, I would hope, on finding our way to compete with China to really build new energy sources of the future.

That’s Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) on Fox News Thursday.  ThinkProgress has the story and video in this cross-post:

In an interview that aired last night on Fox News, Sarah Palin pushed the GOP’s anti-innovation meme and attacked those in Congress who oppose drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Palin called them “extreme politicians over on the left who want to buy into” arguments against drilling from “extreme environmentalists.” The former GOP half-term Alaska governor argued that the U.S. needs “to drill and fill up the pipeline again.”

But in a separate interview later in the program, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) noted that drilling in the Arctic refuge really won’t solve America’s energy problems, won’t have much impact on the price of gasoline, and most importantly, moves the United States away from the direction of moving to a clean energy economy. Then, appearing to borrow a phrase from his GOP colleague Rep. Bob Inglis (SC), Inslee noted that China will outpace the U.S. if it doesn’t focus more on a clean energy economy:

Not only is Inslee correct that oil drilling in the Arctic refuge will have little impact on the American economy, but he’s also right that when in comes to clean energy production, China “is going to eat our lunch.” The New York Times reported earlier this year that China is the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels and new report out last month found that China “is a surprise leader in clean energy efforts“:

“The Chinese leadership have made a strategic decision that they missed out on the last two industrial revolutions and they don’t want to miss out on the third one,” said Erwin Jackson, director of the Climate Institute, of China’s “surprising” dominance.

“They are now commanding the largest market share of clean energy investment at a global level as a result,” Jackson told AFP.

China’s investment in clean energy topped 35 billion US dollars in 2009 compared with 11 billion in Britain and 18 billion in the United States, and Jackson said it was set to increase tenfold over the next decade.

“The race toward a clean-energy future is underway, and those nations that lead will reap enormous economic benefits,” CAP’s Kate Gordon noted in a report on clean energy this year, adding that “[b]y 2020, clean energy will be one of the world’s biggest industries, totaling as much as $ 2.3 trillion” and that China “has made a serious commitment to building that revolution with low-carbon, low-waste technologies and infrastructure.”

Ben Armbruster, ThinkProgress

Related Posts:

Climate Progress

Rep. Inslee Attacks Anti-Innovation GOP: Move To Clean Energy ‘Or China Is Going To Eat Our Lunch’

November 26, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In an interview that aired last night on Fox News, Sarah Palin pushed the GOP’s anti-innovation meme and attacked those in Congress who oppose drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Palin called them “extreme politicians over on the left who want to buy into” arguments against drilling from “extreme environmentalists.” The former GOP half-term Alaska governor argued that the U.S. needs “to drill and fill up the pipeline again.”

But in a separate interview later in the program, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) noted that drilling in the Arctic refuge really won’t solve America’s energy problems, won’t have much impact on the price of gasoline, and most importantly, moves the United States away from the direction of moving to a clean energy economy. Then, appearing to borrow a phrase from his GOP colleague Rep. Bob Inglis (SC), Inslee noted that China will outpace the U.S. if it doesn’t focus more on a clean energy economy:

INSLEE: The fact of the matter is, if we’re going to grow our economy, if we are going to seize the jobs of the next century, we have to get busy focusing our national debate and our national investment on the new clean energy technologies, or China is going to eat our lunch.

China right now is preparing to roll out electric cars, lithium ion batteries, solar cells, cellulosic ethanol. This is where the future of energy is. We’ve a finite resource in oil, just like we had a finite resource in whale oil, and we made a transition. And we have to really focus our national energies in a bipartisan way, I would hope, on finding our way to compete with China to really build new energy sources of the future.

Watch it:

Not only is Inslee correct that oil drilling in the Arctic refuge will have little impact on the American economy, but he’s also right that when in comes to clean energy production, China “is going to eat our lunch.” The New York Times reported earlier this year that China is the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels and new report out last month found that China “is a surprise leader in clean energy efforts“:

“The Chinese leadership have made a strategic decision that they missed out on the last two industrial revolutions and they don’t want to miss out on the third one,” said Erwin Jackson, director of the Climate Institute, of China’s “surprising” dominance.

“They are now commanding the largest market share of clean energy investment at a global level as a result,” Jackson told AFP.

China’s investment in clean energy topped 35 billion US dollars in 2009 compared with 11 billion in Britain and 18 billion in the United States, and Jackson said it was set to increase tenfold over the next decade.

“The race toward a clean-energy future is underway, and those nations that lead will reap enormous economic benefits,” CAP’s Kate Gordon noted in a report on clean energy this year, adding that “[b]y 2020, clean energy will be one of the world’s biggest industries, totaling as much as $ 2.3 trillion” and that China “has made a serious commitment to building that revolution with low-carbon, low-waste technologies and infrastructure.”


Energy and Global Warming News for November 23rd: Massachusetts clears Cape Wind for construction; Simple discoveries could enhance wind turbine efficiency by 18%; Saving energy with a ’slow wall’

November 25, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Massachusetts clears Cape Wind for construction start

The last regulatory hurdle for the start of construction of the first U.S. offshore wind project was overcome today with the approval by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) of the 15-year Power Purchase Agreement with National Grid to buy half of Cape Wind’s energy, capacity and renewable energy credits.

However, the DPU did not approve a second agreement for the other 50 percent of the project’s power. That agreement would have allowed National Grid to assign the remaining portion of Cape Wind’s power to another customer under the same financial terms. The DPU’s refusal could hurt Cape Wind as the company seeks financing for the proposed 130 turbine project.

The decision culminates a comprehensive six-month review of unprecedented scope, including 13 days of evidentiary hearings. This approval comes on the heels of significant Cape Wind project announcements that locate the creation of over 1,000 new manufacturing, staging, assembly, construction, and operations jobs in Massachusetts. In addition, Siemens has opened its North American Offshore Wind office in Boston because of Cape Wind.

Cape Wind will be rated to produce up to 468 megawatts of wind power with 130 turbines each producing up to 3.6 megawatts. Maximum expected production will be 454 megawatts. Average expected production will be 170 megawatts which is almost 75 percent of the 230 megawatt average electricity demand for Cape Cod and the Islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Cape Wind will be 5.2 miles from Point Gammon, a private island in South Yarmouth, 5.6 miles from Cotuit, 6.5 miles from Craigville Beach on Cape Cod. Cape Wind will be 9.3 miles from Oak Bluffs and 13.8 miles from the town of Nantucket. Cape Wind will be farther away from the nearest home than any other electricity generation facility in Massachusetts.

Simple discoveries could enhance wind turbine’s efficiency by 18 percent

Even though the cost of wind power is in a continuous drop since 2008, more and more researchers aim for reducing it more while at the same time enhancing the efficiency. A couple of teams from the Syracuse University and the University of Minnesota have a few ideas about how to improve wind turbines by modding their blades and how the air flows on them.

One of the approaches, developed by a team from Syracuse (Guannan Wang, Basman El Hadidi, Jakub Walczak, Mark Glauser and Hiroshi Higuchi), estimates the airflow over the blade surfaces and passes the information to a computer that regulates the blades’ angle in real time to increase efficiency, just like an airplane does the opposite to move faster or slower.

Their simulations showed that if the flow control is applied on the outboard side of the blade, beyond the half radius, the operational range of the wind turbine could significantly be increased, without affecting the overall power output.

The researchers at the University of Minnesota (Roger Arndt, Leonardo P. Chamorro and Fotis Sotiropoulos)dealt with another issue of wind: the resistance of the blades to the incoming airflow. They placed tiny triangular-shaped grooves in a coating applied on the blades. Being very shallow (40 to 225 microns), they can’t be seen by the naked eye, but still remain perfectly smooth to the touch. This micro-grooves approach gave the turbines another 3 percent efficiency, which is much if we think about the numbers on a global scale.

World’s largest biodiesel plant starts production in Singapore

Neste Oil has started production at its biodiesel plant in Singapore, the world’s largest with an annual capacity of 800,000 tons. The plant will produce the NExBTL diesel which, according to the company reduces the carbon emissions by 40 to 80 percent depending on the percentage blending with the conventional diesel.

The biodiesel from the plant can be either blended with the conventional diesel or used directly. The company claims that the biodiesel is compatible with the all the diesel engines currently in use. Neste Oil is building a similar plant in Rotterdam, The Netherlands which should be ready by Q2 2011.

The plant uses either vegetable oil or a mixture of oils and residual animal fats from the food industry. The basic principle used in producing biodiesel is esterification (or transesterification). In commercial production of biodiesel, fatty acids (found in plant-derived oils, animals fats and greases) are made to react with an alcohol (usually methanol) with potassium hydroxide (or other hydroxide) as catalyst.

It is clear that a greater concentration of fatty acids in any raw material would increase the output of biodiesel. Plant-derived oils like rapeseed oil are rich in fatty acids and can be directly used for producing biodiesel through transesterification. The animal fats, however, have lower fatty acid content and thus they are first treated with alcohol to generate an ester and then the resulting ester is treated with another ester in a replacement reaction to get biodiesel.

RavenSkin nanotech walls stores sun’s energy for later

One of my favorite science fiction ideas is in a short story called Light of Other Days about something called “slow glass.” Light took decades to pass through. In this story, the idea was that people could buy glass windows that took so long for the light to pass through, that they could nostalgically watch long gone scenes, such as their children playing outside as toddlers long after they had gone off to college, or green fields with horses where now ugly cities grew.

Here is a concept that is similar. Instead of slow windows, it is slow walls. RavenBrick has made a nanotech wall that can slow down the day’s heat coming into a building. Using phase-changing material at the molecular level, you get to transfer the warmth of the sun’s heat from the afternoon well into the night.

RavenBrick makes several clean tech materials for building that greatly reduce energy needs, most notably windows that turn off the sun, like Sage Electrochromics windows do. The one that is new to me is this “slow wall”. They claim that their glass-clad Smart Wall: RavenSkin could literally reduce your heating bill to zero! (Coupled with good building design, of course, you can’t expect a zero bill if you put leaky windows in their wall!)

Their wall can delay solar heat gain from hot afternoons, to later that night, when you need it more. This helps regulate the internal temperatures of buildings. It has excellent R-values to begin with (R-11 or more) so it insulates like a normal wall limiting the conduction and convection of heat.

The magic – or science fiction – part is achieved by converting incoming sunlight to infrared, and then directing the flow of energy inward only when you want it to come through the walls. The problem with super well-insulated buildings is that sometimes you do want the suns heat getting in, and regular insulated walls are dumb walls that don’t know when to send the heat in and when to shut it out.

Study – RES would provide $ 14 billion for farming, forestry

The agriculture and forestry sectors would gain $ 14 billion in revenue by 2025 under a national renewable electricity standard that requires utilities to generate 25 percent of their power through wind, solar, biofuels and efficiency improvements, according to a new study from the University of Tennessee.

An RES would create an overall boost of $ 215 billion in economic activity, create 700,000 jobs and add $ 84 billion to U.S. gross domestic product, the study says. The increase in bioenergy feedstock to meet the standard would not disrupt major crop and livestock prices, according to the study. But an RES would not lower carbon emissions from agricultural lands compared to either current policy or a scenario with compensation for limiting carbon emissions from land use, the report says.

The study was requested by the 25x’25 coalition, a group of organizations pushing for meeting a quarter of the nation’s energy needs from renewable sources by 2025. Under a scenario that includes carbon payments with an RES, agriculture and forestry gain revenue worth $ 57 billion as compared to the current baseline, and there would be a reduction of 76 million tons of carbon dioxide, the study found. Under that policy, however, feedstock prices would rise by about $ 6 per dry ton to $ 51 per dry ton.

The middle of the country has the most to gain from an RES or an RES with carbon payments, but the East Coast and the Southeast also would see some benefits, according to the study. The West, except for parts of California and Washington, would experience the least gain, it says.

National lab develops grid controls to handle renewable energy

In an experimental control room at the Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), small blips dart left and right on a display screen, recording distant signals from key points on the Western high-voltage grid at 30 times each second. Should the blips migrate past a security boundary on the display, an alarm would immediately warn that the grid was in jeopardy.

Such an early alert could have helped operators avoid the 1996 Western power blackout, which knocked out 30,000 megawatts of power — equivalent to darkening 30 cities the size of Seattle. The advanced monitors in PNNL’s Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center (EIOC) could also have averted or at least minimized the 2003 Northeast blackout, which cut off power to 50 million people, says Carl Imhoff, PNNL’s electricity infrastructure manager. “You would have seen Cleveland beginning to pull away from the rest of the system” more than an hour before the final cascading power loss, he explained.

The intermittent nature of wind and solar power now make the grid operators’ world more complex. The looming emergence of electric vehicles and the need for ways to store more electricity and to get electricity consumers to reduce peak demands will add still more complexities, Imhoff said. “The grid is going to be changing a lot over the next 10 years. We want to anticipate that and to some extent, to guide it. Right now, I think we’re kind of backing into the future,” he said.

PNNL’s ambitious aim is to manage at least some of that future by investing in innovations like the EIOC, and then carrying technology advances into the marketplace with its industry partners, its leaders say. The result is a federal laboratory, funded by Congress, that seeks solutions in areas of climate policy, renewable energy integration and electric vehicles — areas on which a clear political consensus has not been reached in Washington.

India’s largest oil & gas company to invest millions in renewable energy R&D

The state-owned Indian oil and gas company, ONGC, has announced that it will invest about $ 110.5 million to promote research and development of renewable energy sources. The announced was made by the company chairman at a summit organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) is Asia’s largest oil exploration and production company. It has 77 percent share in the Indian oil production market and 81 percent share in the natural gas production sector. The company is actively involved in exploration of oil and natural gas in several parts of India. A subsidiary, ONGC Videsh takes care of the international business overseas. It has high value stakes in oil and gas fields in countries like Russia, Iran, Vietnam and Sudan. It is believed that it will also partner with a Russian firm to bid for rights to explore the Arctic for hydrocarbon reserves.

This rosy picture, however, fails to bring profits for the company. Due to the government’s intervention, the oil and gas proces remained low for the past several years. So while the companies importe; therefore all the state-owned companies operated in heavy losses for several years. Only recently did the government loosen its grip on the pricing mechanism and allowed the companies to decide domestic prices according to the international oil prices.

Air pollution exceeds safety limits in big Asian cities

Air pollution in major cities in Asia exceeds the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) air quality guidelines and toxic cocktails result in more than 530,000 premature deaths a year, according to a new report issued on Tuesday. Issued by the U.S.-based Health Effects Institute, the study found that elderly people with cardiopulmonary and other chronic illnesses were especially vulnerable and they tended to die prematurely when their conditions were exacerbated by bad air.

“In general, those susceptible to air pollution are people who are older, who have cardiopulmonary disease, stroke, conditions often related to aging,” the institute’s vice president, Robert O’Keefe, said by telephone. “In Asia, the elderly will become more susceptible to air pollution and become more frail. The more frail are the ones dying prematurely from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), cardiovascular disease,” he said.

The study took into account three main pollutants — particulate matter of 10 micrometers and smaller, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. Not a single city in Asia had all three pollutants within limits considered acceptable by the World Health Organization. Although sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide in Dhaka were within safety limits, particulates in the capital of Bangladesh were more than five times over WHO guidelines.

Dual-Axis tracking generates more power

While a tremendous amount of research and funding is going into trying to increase the efficiency of photovoltaic cells by a few percentage points, there is a readily available solution that yields a 40% increase in produced power today – dual-axis tracking [1]. By simply moving the PV array so that it is aligned with the sun throughout the day and seasons, you get a large boost in produced power at a small incremental cost. Of course the cost depends on the design of the tracking system. In today’s market, this cost ranges from under a $ 1.00/produced watt, to around $ 3.00/produced watt. We are talking about produced watts rather than rated watts.

The key to understanding the benefits of tracking is the significance of the incident angle, the angle at which the sun’s rays strike the PV array. To see how the incident angle affects solar intensity and power production, we use the formula Intensity = Constant x cos Θ where Θ is the incident angle measured from perpendicular (Fig. 1). So intensity is at its maximum when Θ = 0−this is when the arriving energy strikes a PV panel perpendicularly. The greater the incident angle, the smaller the amount of energy reaching the panel.

Another consequence of a large incident angle is reflection. As the incident angle increases, the glass on the front of the PV panels begins to reflect energy away from the panels, reducing the power produced. The combination of reflection and reduced available surface area is why fixed solar systems produce very little power in the morning and afternoon. Figure 2 is a representational daily energy production graph for a fixed array. For a fixed array, the incident angle changes throughout the day, from highly acute to highly obtuse. The result is that very little energy is produced during the morning and afternoon.

Climate Progress

Can on-bill financing and energy loans bring wonderful life to economy?

November 25, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Image: Wikmidea Commons

Okay, this isn’t quite the right holiday, but energy economics expert Craig Severance has a new post that includes one of our favor strategies — On Bill Financing.

In Frank Capra’s classic 1946 film It’s A Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart as Building and Loan manager George Bailey discovers what the world would have been like if he had never existed.

Without George Bailey’s heroic efforts to save the small lender that helped the middle class, Bailey’s home town of Bedford Falls would have fallen into decay.  Bailey’s guardian angel Clarence shows him the town, renamed “Pottersville”,  under the control of evil slumlord and big banker Henry Potter.  The crushing effects of poverty have destroyed the lives of many closest to Bailey.

Poverty Now Spreading in America. Much as in the Pottersville scene from the movie, hopelessness and poverty are now spreading across America.   The most inclusive U.6 jobless rate is at 17%, the alternate measure calculated by Shadow Government Statistics shows there are 22.5%  jobless, ominously close to the estimated Great Depression peak of  25% unemployment.  One in eight Americans are now on food stamps, the highest percentage since records began in 1969.   While Congress debates extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, unemployment benefits will expire for millions who still have no hope of finding work.

Chart: John Williams Shadow Government Statistics

Most families and businesses are simply “Maxed Out” and at the limits of their budgets. To create jobs, Americans must spend money, but that money has to come from somewhere.

Projects That Pay For Themselves. While American families and businesses may have little ability to spend more right now, the opportunity to spend less makes sense.

Energy saving and renewable energy projects can more than pay for themselves by cutting the energy expenditures of households and businesses.   Though they take up-front dollars to implement, a steady monthly stream of utility bill savings pays off the cost of the project.

An energy loan on good terms can convert the cost of the energy saving and renewable energy projects into a monthly payment that is less than the savings.  The family budget improves from Day 1 of project completion.

Creating American Jobs. While these projects pay for themselves with the same money people are already spending on utility bills, energy saving projects are not a “wash” for American job creation, for four reasons:

1.  More money is spent now, on the project, than current year utility bills.
2.  Energy saving and renewable industries are more labor intensive.
3.  Many fuels are imported from other countries.
4.  Most energy-saving products such as caulk & insulation are USA made.

The customer saves money, and the project creates jobs.   If there was ever a definition of a  “no-brainer” you’ve-got-to-do-this idea, this is the one.

We Need George Bailey. All of the above makes sense, but if your credit rating is shot, or your home equity is gone, your chance of getting an energy loan is nil.  Even if you qualify, you may not do it as you don’t know how long you will live in the house.   If you are a renter, forget it completely.

To create American jobs doing these projects that pay for themselves, there are two proposals now afloat — Federally Guaranteed Loans, and On-Bill Financing from utilities.

Federally Guaranteed Home Energy Loans. On November 9th, Vice President Joe Biden and the U.S. Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced a new pilot program for PowerSaver FHA-backed home energy retrofit loans.

In the small (only $ 25 million) pilot program, which will initially operate only in certain cities and states, homeowners would go through an energy audit that would rate their home’s efficiency and recommend energy-saving and renewable energy measures.

Private lenders then would issue loans of up to $ 25,000 to the homeowner to perform the work.  FHA would back up to 90% of the loans with a Federal guarantee.  The $ 25 million spent by FHA will be spent primarily on incentives for private lenders to participate.

While this FHA initiative is a decent start, its limitations reduce its overall effectiveness.  Borrowers must have enough equity in their homes to support both their existing mortage and the new energy loan.  Borrowers must also have a minimum credit score of 660, and a maximum 45% overall debt-to-income ratio.  No renters are covered.

While these rules are clearly designed to protect the FHA from backing loans that are too risky, they define a much smaller class of homes than the total number where energy savings could pay for retrofits.

The biggest limitation, however, will be the program’s minimal funding.  It is questionable how many PowerSaver loans will ultimately be made.

On Bill Financing. If the nation is ever going to seriously address the enormous amount of building energy retrofits that need to be done, utilities need to be brought into the game.

A proposal long advanced by energy efficiency advocates, including the National Small Business Association, and now included in UK government plans,  is for utilities to finance energy saving projects.  Customers repay the utility by including the monthly loan payment as a cost-of-service charge on the monthly utility bill for that address.

That last phrase – for that address – is the key advantage of On Bill Financing.  Much like the other fixed charges on the monthly utility bill that reflect the cost of providing service to that address (e.g. the meter & lines), the loan payment for the energy retrofit would stay with the building and be charged to whomever uses the utility services.   

On Bill Financing overcomes the major barriers to energy retrofits:

1.  It funds the up-front costs and converts it into a monthly payment.
2.  Customers who don’t plan to stay long term can still benefit.
3.  Energy savings and the loan payment are on the same billing.
4.  If a customer is credit worthy for that utility billing, they qualify already.
5.  Many utility customers with poor credit can now prepay their bill.
6.  Renters can arrange for and benefit from energy retrofits.
7.  Balance is not due when building is sold, so equity not an issue.

Utilities can benefit from On Bill Financing by dropping their existing giveaway energy-saving programs (charged to all utility customers), and instead pursuing a new line of profitable business.  The energy savings achieved will also reduce the very high costs of building new power plants.

Combining Federal Guarantees with On Bill Financing. As noted above, the FHA PowerSaver Federally Guaranteed loans are far too limited in both scope and funding to achieve either the job creation or energy saving goals the nation needs.

WIth the nation already in a stubborn joblessness crisis, it is beyond time to consider aggressive actions to create jobs.  This proposal can work, using private monies already being spent, with little or no government funding.  No money needs to be “dropped from helicopters“.

One of the advantages of utility On Bill Financing is that the utility sector still has ready access to financing and can raise the funds needed to perform the retrofits.   Most of their customers, however, cannot raise the funds — except to pay for the work out of energy savings, after it is done.   In other words, On Bill Financing promotes job creation that would otherwise not happen, by an industry with the ability to finance it.

To encourage utilities to institute such programs, the Federal government may need to pass a National Renewable Energy and Efficiency Standard, a proposal now being contemplated in Congress.  As customer billings are now governed by states, the Standard may need to mandate states to change utility billing practices to allow On Bill Financing.

With or without such a national Standard, if the Federal government wants to offer Federal guarantees of energy retrofit projects, it can support utilities who institute On Bill FInancing.  Federal Guarantees could back utility bonds whose funds are used for such programs.  This would be far bigger and more effective than expansion of an FHA-only program.

By their very nature, utility programs can reach far more customers.  Yet, default rates for On Bill Financing are likely to be extremely low, as the loans would continue to be paid if anyone occupies the building and pays the utility bills.  The only time a complete default could occur would be if a building was left vacant with no new occupant . The Federal Guarantee cost for On Bill Financing programs would thus likely be quite low.

Will We Fund Pottersville Instead?

Federal Guarantees for Too Big to Fail Energy Projects. In stark contrast to the pittance now being put toward helping homeowners struggling to do energy retrofits, the Federal government is eager to spend billions of taxpayer funds on massive and highly risky energy projects.

Well-funded lobby groups from the nuclear power industry and the coal Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) lobby have convinced key members of Congress that billions of dollars of Federally guaranteed loans should be proferred for their highly risky projects.

These projects would be built by utilities, who normally have no trouble obtaining private financing to build power plants.   However, the reason private bankers won’t fund nuclear power or CCS is the projects are far too expensive to compete.

Just last month, both Exelon and Constellation Energy utility executives made major remarks about the cost of new nuclear power projects, noting that cheap natural gas makes new nuclear prohibitively expensive.

If these projects are Federally guaranteed, however, the market distortions opposed by conservatives may cause the projects to be built anyway, and their very high costs will be passed on to utility customers.  If the projects fail, it will be customers again (in the role of taxpayers) who will  pay.

Raising utility bills and taxes on the middle class is a prescription for further erosion of the middle class into poverty.

Who will receive the taxpayer billions from these Too Big to Fail projects?  Nuclear and CCS promoters will of course walk away with large profits from building the projects.  When the project fails, however, the Loan Guarantee from taxpayers would kick in.  The Congressional Budget Office  estimated this may be needed for over 50% of new nuclear projects built.

With a Federal Loan Guarantee,  the funds do not go to utility ratepayers, or even utility shareholders.  Rather, the taxpayer funds protect the loan made by the same Too Big to Fail Wall Street banks (the only ones large enough to fund such massive projects) who have already received hundreds of billions in TARP and Federal Reserve subsidies over the last two years.

Political Risks. Politicians see offering taxpayer monies to the banks and the nuclear industry as a way to stimulate the economy.

Yet, will Democrats who support these new subsidies be accused of once again bailing out the Big Banks?  Will Republicans be seen as RINO’s — Republicans In Name Only –  willing to favor powerful Patrons with taxpayer funded bailouts that increase the Federal Deficit?

Pottersville or A Wonderful Life? In many ways, America is beginning to look more like the horrific vision of Pottersville than the happy town of Bedford Falls where George Bailey labored.

The American middle class is being destroyed, and hope is disappearing for tens of millions of Americans.  Our children see a future less prosperous and more threatening than the present.

As with the vision of Pottersville, much of this has been brought on by the actions of a greedy few.  If our actions moving forward continue to enrich  the few at the expense of the middle class, there will be Pottersvilles all across America.

Using taxpayer funds to advance expensive Too Big to Fail projects will certainly help the special interest promoters.  The Potters of America will thrive.

However, when those projects drastically raise utlity bills, it will further impoverish middle class families left living in inefficient, leaky homes.

Where We Put Our Funds Matters. When George Bailey faced an anxious crowd of depositors to the Building and Loan wanting to withdraw their funds, he delivered the most memorable explanation ever given of our banking system.   George explained “Your money’s not here” — it’s in Mary’s home, and Bill’s business — invested in making a better community.

Extending credit where it was most needed to the good citizens of Bedford Falls helped that community thrive.

The choices are just as clear for America now.  If modest efforts are made now, we can find ways for middle class Americans to do energy retrofits for their homes and businesses.  The jobless can go back to work.  Family budgets can be protected from drastically rising energy costs.   The crushing burden of poverty can be avoided for millions.

It will make a difference in the world that this was done.

(L) Clarence the Messenger

Time to Jump in the River? We only need this message to get to our leaders.  Now, where is that angel Clarence when we need him most?

Craig Severance, reposted with permission from his website.

Climate Progress

Energy and Global Warming News for November 24th: World Bank boosts clean energy lending 300%, fossil fuels 430%; UK wants central role for business in Cancun; World’s first hybrid tugboat

November 25, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

World Bank Giving More to Clean Energy, but Also to Fossil Fuels

The World Bank has been talking more and more about focusing its support on clean energy projects, and apparently it has been putting much more into clean energy lately. “The World Bank’s lending for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects increased by 300 percent between fiscal year 2007 and fiscal year 2010, to a record $ 3.4 billion,” Timothy Hurst of ecopolitology reports.

However, while that alone might look really good, it’s also important to note that lending for fossil fuels increased 430 percent in the same time period. Lending for coal plants reached a record $ 4.4 billion and lending for fossil-fuel projects, in total, reached a record $ 6.3 billion.

This is despite the World Bank admitting a couple years ago that climate change is one of the biggest threats to the development of poor countries.

“In its actions, the World Bank has deviated from its rhetoric,” says Janet Redman, co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. “It has not done clean energy when it could. It has not prioritized clean energy sources over traditional fossil-fuel sources. And it is constantly stalling on one very important policy: calculating the greenhouse-gas emissions produced by its own projects.”

One of the biggest disappointments of late was in April when the World Bank approved the world’s fourth-largest coal power plant in South Africa, a 4,800-MW plant. (The U.S., Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Italy showed their disapproval for this project by abstaining from the vote,.. a typical, but, in my opinion, not very brave way of showing disapproval.)

Another clear failure was giving support to a 4,000-MW coal plant in India. The World Bank is supporting the emission of 50 million tons of carbon dioxide a year with these two projects alone, about equal to Ireland’s total emissions.

While the World Bank recently appointed Daniel M. Kammen as its ”clean tech czar,” I am still hesitant to believe it is planning to live up to its responsibility to address and limit the devastating effects of climate change.

UK wants central role for business in Cancun

The UK’s negotiating team for next week’s Cancun climate change summit has signaled that it wants to see the global business community play a central role in the crucial talks, insisting that support from the private sector is vital if progress towards an international deal is to be delivered.

Speaking to reporters earlier today, climate change minister Greg Barker said he would act as a liaison between business leaders and the negotiators as part of an effort to improve upon previous UN summits where the “voice of the private sector has not been sufficiently heard”.
He acknowledged that while there has been “scepticism and in some cases outright hostility” amongst some developing countries to the role of the private sector in tackling climate change, the UK would make the case that private finance will be critical to the development of a global low carbon economy and would not be used to replace government funding.

Barker said vocal support from the business sector could help revive the negotiations following the deadlock at the end of the Copenhagen Summit.

“What we need to get out of this round of talks is a sense of momentum,” he said. “The central question is whether the drive to a low carbon economy is compatible with prosperity and economic growth – we think it can be done and can actually help drive economic growth.”

The negotiating text will not be directly changed to give business leaders a more central role, but Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said he was hopeful the summit would deliver progress in a number of areas that will throw up new business opportunities.

Most notably, he expressed optimism the talks could see agreement on the final outline of a deal on forestry protection mechanisms and the formation of a new international green fund to distribute climate financing that could combine public and private sector funding.

He also said the UK would be looking for a number of multilateral agreements with “progressive developing countries” that would demonstrate how a mixture of public and private finance can effectively drive low carbon and climate adaptation projects.

Huhne reiterated the UK “is not expecting a final agreement in Cancun”, but he insisted the groundwork done by the Mexican hosts suggested agreements could be reached on forestry and financing that could then be finalised when other issues are addressed at next year’s talks.

He also said the UK was hoping to see some progress on a number of the more contentious issues in the negotiating text.

In particular, he said the EU would push for the targets contained in the Copenhagen deal to be formally recognised in the UN negotiating process. He also said he remained hopeful that countries such as China that are opposed to MRV measures on the grounds that they represent an infringement of their sovereignty may be willing to shift their position, given they are already signed up to other international treaties that are more invasive.

He concluded that the UK negotiating team would not be armed with “a lot of difficult red lines” and would regard the talks as a success as long as they deliver clear progress towards a deal that can be finalised next year.

“The last thing we want is a confrontational shambles that ends in a lot of name calling,” he said.

The news comes on that same day as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative announced that it will host a major new business summit alongside the main Cancun talks dubbed the World Climate Summit.

The conference – which UNEP describes as “the beginning of a new, open and collaborative global 10-year framework dedicated to helping governments, businesses and financiers accelerate solutions to climate change” – will take place on December 4-5 in Cancun and will be attended by representatives from over 300 of the world’s largest firms, including Richard Branson and Ted Turner.

“As world leaders drive towards a global agreement on climate change, investors in the world’s capital markets cannot afford to simply sit and wait,” said Paul Clements-Hunt, Head of the UNEP Finance Initiative. “Investors and other financial institutions are determined to work with policy-makers to catalyse new low carbon markets worth USD trillions. The World Climate Summit will bring finance, business and negotiators together to help make those future low carbon markets a reality.”

World’s First Hybrid Tugboat Reduces Emissions at California Ports

Carbon emissions at sea have received more attention over the last decade. Ports, especially, can have a negative impact on air quality in the populated areas that surround them. The many emissions sources at ports include ships, trucks, trains, and cargo-handling equipment. Harbor-crafts also contribute a significant portion of total port emissions. These include tugboats, ferries, fishing boats, and dredge vessels. Recently, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have started using a hybrid electric tugboat. A new study by the University of California (UC) Riverside has shown that this has been effective at reducing emissions.

Tugboats are typically powered by marine compression ignition engines. The engines are built to be extremely powerful relative to the size of the vessel. Larger tugboats used in deeper waters have power ratings up to 27,000 horse power. They can have a power:tonnage ratio of up to 4.5, similar to engines used in locomotives. These engines typically drive the propellers mechanically rather than converting the output through electric motors, as is done on trains.
The massive engines can consume large amounts of fuel and produce harmful emissions full of diesel particulates. This has made the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach the largest contributors of air pollution in the South Coast Basin according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Pollution from the diesel-powered tugboats and other port emission sources has caused negative health effects on the surrounding population, including cancer and respiratory illnesses.
Now the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the largest container ports in the nation, are home to the first and only hybrid electric tugboat in the world. Named the Carolyn Dorothy, it runs on four diesel engines and 126 batteries. It was financed by the two ports and the South Coast Air Quality Management District to the tune of $ 1.35 million. The vessel was built by Foss Maritime, based in Seattle, and began operational duty in January of 2009.

Researchers from UC Riverside’s College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology conducted a study to see how much emissions the new hybrid tugboat saved. They found it decreased emissions of soot by 73 percent, nitrogen oxides (smog forming compounds) by 51 percent, and CO2 (greenhouse gas) by 27 percent. Their report was completed in October of 2010 and presented to CARB.

The widespread adoption of hybrid marine engines would go a long way in reducing emissions at sea and in port. However, it comes with a very expensive price tag, and technical issues resulting in inefficiencies still remain. The UC Riverside researchers are hopeful that there will be further improvements once plug-in hybrid tugboats become available.

A Sustainable Farming System Designed for Practically Everyone

Algosolar LLC, a farming research and design group, has announced the launch of Bioponica™ — an organic gardening system geared for homeowners, schools, restaurants and commercial growers. On November 20th, from 6pm until 12am, the company will begin a public displaying event for this innovative growing system. The 10′x4′ table, complete with 120 gallon fish tank, is designed to convert waste such as grass clippings, table scraps and other carbon and nitrogen-rich waste sources into fertilizer. “It is unfortunate that we have relied on our municipalities to dispose of waste, whether that be urine, food or yard trimmings,” says co-creator, Dr. Epstein, a holistic osteopathic physician. “It is not practical or sustainable. When nutrients that come from the environment or from the food we eat are buried in landfills or else incinerated then we lose that valuable resource and it becomes a greenhouse gas that negatively impacts our climate and environment. The alternative is to recycle nutrients with the least amount of effort and cost.” The Bioponica™ system works by taking waste and converting it into worm castings and worm teas which are then used to fertilize hydroponic plant beds.

The system also accomodates the growth of algae and duckweed, as well as microbes and aquatic animals that feed on the algae. The table is intended for ample food production, and will grow a variety of medicinal and edible plants — from micro-greens to wheatgrass. “When growing high value crops such as these, the return on investment is less than one year. And without having to purchase fish food or fertilizer the cost is limited to a small electric bill for water pumps and labor,” says Epstein.

The Bioponica™ gardening system will grow indoors or outdoors and also come complete with a UV filtered polycarbonate roofing option to help keep the temperature, CO2 and nutrient load stable. Fellow creator and professional engineer, Kenneth Lovell, says, “By converting carbon and nitrogen rich waste into fish and plant food we are effectively sequestering carbon turning it into a food before it escapes as a CO2 gas. The tables capture heat and warm the water within the fish tanks. On cool nights, the heated thermal mass of water returns to the beds, warming the plant area to extend the growing season into colder months.”

Optimizing Large Wind Farms

ScienceDaily (Nov. 23, 2010) — Wind farms around the world are large and getting larger. Arranging thousands of wind turbines across many miles of land requires new tools that can balance cost and efficiency to provide the most energy for the buck

Charles Meneveau, who studies fluid dynamics at Johns Hopkins University, and his collaborator Johan Meyers from Leuven University in Belgium, have developed a model to calculate the optimal spacing of turbines for the very large wind farms of the future. Theyl presented their work November 23 at the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD) meeting in Long Beach, CA.

“The optimal spacing between individual wind turbines is actually a little farther apart than what people use these days,” said Meneveau.

The blades of a turbine distort wind, creating eddies of turbulence that can affect other wind turbines farther downwind. Most previous studies have used computer models to calculate the wake effect of one individual turbine on another.

Starting with large-scale computer simulations and small-scale experiments in a wind tunnel, Meneveau’s model considers the cumulative effects of hundreds or thousands of turbines interacting with the atmosphere.

“There’s relatively little knowledge about what happens when you put lots of these together,” said Meneveau.

The energy a large wind farm can produce, he and his coworkers discovered, depends less on horizontal winds and more on entraining strong winds from higher in the atmosphere. A 100-meter turbine in a large wind farm must harness energy drawn from the atmospheric boundary layer thousands of feet up.

In the right configuration, lots of turbines essentially change the roughness of the land — much in the same way that trees do — and create turbulence. Turbulence, in this case, isn’t a bad thing. It mixes the air and helps to pull down kinetic energy from above.
Using as example 5 megawatt-rated machines and some reasonable economic figures, Meneveau calculates that the optimal spacing between turbines should be about 15 rotor diameters instead of the currently prevalent figure of 7 rotor diameters.

China hits efficiency and pollution targets

China will have achieved its goal of a 20 per cent reduction of energy intensity and a 10 per cent cut in major pollutant emission against 2005 levels by the end of 2010, according to official figures reported yesterday.

Success in meeting the goals is largely thanks to hefty government investment coupled with draconian threats for non-compliance towards the end of the 11th Five-Year Plan (2005-2010).

The China Daily cited a study by the National Development and Reform Commission (NRDC) showing that government funding of more than 200bn yuan ($ 301 bn) for energy conservation, emissions reduction, and environmental protection measures unlocked over 2 trillion yuan ($ 30bn) in green investment from the private sector.

The commission study also says that more than 70 per cent of coal-fired power stations have installed Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) systems, while 998 energy-consuming enterprises achieved energy-saving goals laid out by the government.

Earlier this year Chinese premier Wen Jiabao warned he would use an “iron fist” to ensure the targets were met, promising to close some of the country’s most inefficient factories and heavy manufacturing plants if they remained non-compliant with the targets.

It was also reported in the People’s Daily that some regions have carried out enforced power blackouts over the last few days to ensure the targets were met.

However China still remains the world’s second-largest energy user, consuming 2.146 billion tonnes of oil equivalent last year, versus 2.382 billion tonnes used by the US.

The NDRC report said “arduous efforts” would be needed to realize the country’s ambition of moving toward more environmentally-friendly economic growth by 2020, including decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 to 50 per cent per unit of GDP from 2005 levels, increasing non-fossil fuel energy share to 15 per cent in primary energy, and adding 40 million hectares of forest land.

A series of new policies are to be launched over the next few months for the forthcoming 12th Five-Year Plan which will run from 2011 to 2015. The plan is expected to include new national targets for energy and carbon intensity, as well as regional targets for provinces to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, plans to roll out carbon trading schemes, and measures to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles and renewable energy capacity.

Ontario feed-in tariffs creating solar jobs at the cost of a donut per month

Using a measure of cost that all Canadians understand, a provocative new report says the impact of Ontario’s feed-in tariffs for solar photovoltaics (PV), which will create 70,000 jobs, is no more than one Tim Hortons donut per month.

Tim Hortons is a popular Canadian coffee-shop chain found in even the smallest village.

The confidential report comes at a time of heated political debate in the provincial capital of Toronto about the cost of the current government’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act. Ontario’s feed-in tariff program is the most visible — and the most controversial — aspect of the policy.

The report by ClearSky Advisors was prepared for private, and so far unnamed, clients. However, a summary has been released to the media. ClearSky says that by 2015, Ontario’s solar PV industry will have created 72,000 person-years of jobs.

Ontario plans to close all its coal-fired power plants by 2014. Generation by renewable sources, including solar PV, will be used to offset the coal-fired generation lost.

Program cost minimal

Critics of the program say that feed-in tariffs are the cause of what they claim are increasing electricity costs.
Not so, says ClearSky’s summary. Cost of electricity in the province will increase slightly to a maximum of about one percent of a typical household’s bill, then decline steadily as the initial contracts work their way through the system.

Solar PV is the most expensive of the new renewable energy technologies. Though costs are rapidly declining, generation from solar PV is still several times more costly than that from wind, hydro, or biogas. Thus, feed-in tariffs for solar PV are a lightning rod for critics of renewable energy.

In a previous report, ClearSky estimated that Ontario will install 3,000 megawatts of solar PV in the next five years. During the period studied in this report, ClearSky says Ontario will install a total of 6,000 megawatts of solar PV by 2021. For comparison, California is expected to have a total installed capacity of 800 megawatts and the U.S. 1,700 megawatts of solar PV by the end of 2010.

If ClearSky’s estimates become reality, Ontario will soon become the largest center of solar PV development in North America by a wide margin, and rival European countries, which are currently the leaders in solar generation.

More jobs from solar PV than coal or nuclear

The Green Energy Act was in part justified by the job-creation potential in Ontario’s industrial sector, which was hard hit by the collapse of North America’s auto manufacturers.
Implementation of the province’s feed-in tariff program by the Ontario Power Authority includes a controversial domestic content provision. In effect, a substantial portion of any solar system installed in Ontario must be manufactured in the province.
ClearSky’s summary suggests that this policy may in fact work as intended at creating new jobs. The report says solar PV creates 12 times more jobs than nuclear per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated and 15 times more than coal.
More jobs per dollar invested

ClearSky calculates that while investment in solar PV results in 30 percent to 40 percent as much electricity as investment in conventional sources, the investment in solar PV pays dividends in job creation. According to ClearSky’s summary, investment in solar PV creates 2.4 to 6.4 times more jobs than a similar investment in conventional sources.

Ontario solar PV billion dollar market

At the current pace of development and with the limitations of a weak, antiquated grid in mind, ClearSky projects that between 2010 and 2015, Ontario’s burgeoning solar industry will attract nearly $ 7.8 billion (USD) in private capital.

Clean generation saves ratepayers 20 percent

On Oct. 17, 2010 the Ontario government announced a rebate of 10 percent on ratepayers’ electricity bills to compensate for what it calls the “Clean Energy Benefit” of the Green Energy Act. The rebate will be paid for from tax revenue.

In a posting on their website, “Why Ontario’s Clean Energy Benefit Makes Sense — Sort Of,” ClearSky argues that the rapid development of clean sources of generation to replace the existing coal-fired plants saves taxpayers money by eliminating coal’s social and environmental costs.

The posting has revised interest in a long-forgotten report on the cost of coal-fired generation. The 2005 report, Cost Benefit Analysis: Replacing Ontario’s Coal-Fired Electricity Generation [PDF], tallied the then social cost of electricity from the province’s nuclear-powered and fossil-fired fleet of generators. The report says Ontario’s coal-fired power plants cost Ontario nearly $ 0.127 (USD) per kilowatt hour in environmental and social impacts.

According to ClearSky, new renewable generation under the Green Energy Act’s feed-in tariffs saves ratepayers the equivalent of 20 percent on their electricity bills. Thus, they reluctantly say, the province’s Clean Energy Benefit does appear justified and could be even higher.

While ClearSky’s market analysis won’t settle the debate on the future of Ontario’s electricity system, it clearly shows that the province is headed toward becoming a leader in renewable energy development, and especially in the creation of a solar PV industry.

Climate Progress

Neglecting our muscle: American energy tax policy

November 23, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Forget what you learned about economics in college or by reading books. Fossil fuels are the muscle of our economy. Products are shipped from factories in ships, trains, and trucks powered by petroleum based fuels. If you take the bus or drive your car, you’re using fossil fuels. I don’t see that changing in the next 50 years.

The Obama administration and congressional Democrats are threatening to eliminate one of the few tax credits energy firms qualify for-the “dual capacity” credit that applies to overseas earnings. Other industries benefit from it, as well as the Section 199 credit that is under attack.

Eliminating these could cost 150,000 American energy jobs.

There’s energy-and then there is one of the Democrats’ metaphorical lottery winners-green energy. As you will see in the Tax Foundation graphic, green energy, warts and all-and there are a lot of warts-receives quadruple the subsidies fossil fuel energy gets.

Instead of taking care of our energy muscle, we are pumping up our energy toenail.

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Marathon Pundit

Conservative leaders attack Browner, Administration and Upton on climate science and clean energy

November 23, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Senior Fellow Daniel J. Weiss is CAPAF’s Director of Climate Strategy.

The incoming House Republican majority includes many climate science deniers.  They have already begun their attacks on promoters of policies to reduce energy use, save families money, and cut global warming pollution.  This includes an attack on Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), a leading candidate to become Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

He is under fire for his efforts to require more energy efficient light bulbs.  But he has also joined the global warming witch hunt by hurling misleading charges about Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Carol Browner in an attempt to discredit her long record of basing energy policies on sound science.  This attack is the beginning of efforts to undo the Obama Administration’s successes at creating clean energy jobs, saving families money, and reducing oil use and pollution.

The attack on Upton sprung from the effort by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) to become Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C).  House Republican term limit rules restrict their members to three Congresses (six years) as chair and/or ranking minority member of a committee.   Barton seeks a waiver to allow him to become Chair of E&C in 2011 even though he already served as chair for two years and ranking member for four years.  Without a waiver, the next most senior Republican – Upton – should become chair.

Despite Upton’s life time American Conservative Union record of 72 percent, many on the far right believe he is not conservative enoughto oversee federal energy, communications, and health care policy.  Politico reported on this anti-Upton campaign.

They’re pointing to Upton’s support for phasing out some incandescent light bulbs in favor of greener alternatives.

Right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh cited Upton’s promotion of eco-friendly light bulbs evidence that he shouldn’t take the Energy and Commerce gavel.

“This would be a tone-deaf disaster if the Republican leadership lets Fred Upton ascend to the chairmanship of the House energy committee,” Limbaugh said this week. “This is exactly the kind of nannyism, statism, what have you, that was voted against and was defeated last week. No Republican complicit in nannyism, statism, can be rewarded this way.”

Upton (R-Mich.) teamed up with California Democratic Rep. Jane Harman on 2007 legislation aimed at phasing out the use of incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy efficient bulbs. That language eventually became law as part of a larger energy bill.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy notes that incandescent bulbs that use only 10 percent of their energy for light – the rest is waste heat.  More efficient compact fluorescent bulbs

use less energy and last longer, [so consumers] will save up to several times their purchase price each year through reduced electricity bills and fewer replacement bulbs.

Upton’s light bulb efficiency provision was part of the Energy Independence and Security Act that President George W. Bush signed into law in 2007.

The bill sets lamp efficiency standards for common light bulbs, requiring them to use about 20-30% less energy than present incandescent bulbs by 2012-2014 (phasing in over several years) and requiring a DOE rulemaking to set standards that will reduce energy use to no more than about 65% of current lamp use by 2020.

The attack on Upton’s leadership to require light bulbs to waste less energy and save more money is an example of the right’s broad attack on science and clean energy technology.

After the assault he promptly dimmed his support for energy efficiency and consumer savings.  Politico reports

Hoping to counter attacks from his right, Rep. Fred Upton is promising to reexamine a controversial ban on incandescent light bulbs if he becomes chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

After the right’s attack on Upton, he followed in their footsteps by launching a similar misplaced attack on Carol Browner.  On November 15, he sent a letter questioning her actions on the Department of Interior moratorium on deep water drilling in the wake of the nation’s worst oil disaster.  It focuses on the disproved charge that her office modified the DOI report so that it appeared that the moratorium decision was peer reviewed by scientists when it was not.

This question was fully examined by the Inspector General at the Department of Interior, and it found no wrong doing.

While the 30-Day Report’s Executive Summary could have been more clearly worded, the Department has not definitively violated the IQA [Information Quality Act, which guides the federal government’s use of information]. For example, the recommendation for a moratorium is not contained in the safety report itself. Furthermore, the Executive Summary does not indicate that the peer reviewers approved any of the Report’s recommendations. The Department also appears to have adequately remedied the IQA concerns by communicating directly with the experts, offering a formal apology, and publicly clarifying the nature of the peer review.

Upton’s letter is like issuing a speeding ticket to a car traveling at 25.1 miles per hour in a 25 MPH zone, even after the radar gun demonstrated there was no violation.

Interestingly, we could find no record of Upton raising similar concerns about the Bush administration’s frequent editing of documents to remove descriptions of climate science.  The New York Times revealed that

A White House official who once led the oil industry’s fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents.

Upton’s misleading attack on Browner is his attempt to demonstrate his right wing, anti-science bona fides during the mud wrestling to win the coveted E&C chair.  However, this false attack is not an isolated incident, but instead part of the incoming House majority’s effort to attack climate science and scientists, as well as the administration’s successful clean energy policies.

As chair, Upton plans to conduct hearings designed to undermine EPA rules to protect public health and the environment from toxic coal ash, smog, mercury and other toxic chemicals, and global warming pollution.  All of these safeguards will be based upon the best medical and scientific evidence available in order to protect children, seniors, and others from these harmful, controllable contaminants.

Upton’s attacks are the rule, rather than the exception, among the new majority.  His colleagues plan a host of similar efforts to conduct witch hunts in the name of oversight.  This could include efforts to overturn or delay the implementation of President Obama’s new fuel economy standards that would reduce oil use by 1.8 billion barrels, save consumers $ 3000 or more over the life of their car, and cut nearly a billion tons of greenhouse gas pollution.  Bloomberg reports,

Tea Party-backed candidates who won seats in the House by campaigning against federal regulation and spending, including the GM and Chrysler bailouts, may lead opposition to increasing fuel-economy standards, said Russ Harding, senior environmental policy analyst at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality from 1995 to 2002 [under Republican Governor John Engler, now head of the National Association of Manufacturers].

Incoming Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa (R-CA) plans to interrogate the administration over some of its other successes.

With their new majority in the House, Republicans are expected to waste no time in flexing their oversight authority. The ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government reform panel confirmed that the GOP-led committee will investigate polices like the stimulus, the health care bill, and the bank bailout.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. the “stimulus”) has had a real success creating clean energy jobs, investing in renewable technologies, and reducing families’ energy bills via efficiency.

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), the likely chair of the House Science Committee, has already announced his future assault on climate science.

The likely next chairman of the House Science Committee says “reasonable people have serious questions” about the science connecting manmade greenhouse gas emissions to global warming.

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) on Wednesday vowed to investigate the Obama administration’s climate policies if he becomes chairman.

Fred Upton is on the receiving end of the kind of assault that he has levied on Carol Browner.  Many more similar attacks are likely after his colleagues take control of the House of Representatives on January 5, 2011.  The objective of these attacks is to defeat or delay health and science based policies that protect and benefit society as whole even if they reduce profits for big oil, dirty coal or other special interests.

Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC), defeated by a Tea Party candidate in his primary, alerted his Republican colleagues that their assault on science and clean energy policies would harm Americans.  At a House Science Committee hearing on global warming science he warned,

I would also suggest to my Free Enterprise colleagues — especially conservatives here — whether you think it’s all a bunch of hooey, what we’ve talked about in this committee, the Chinese don’t. And they plan on eating our lunch in this next century. They plan on innovating around these problems, and selling to us, and the rest of the world, the technology that’ll lead the 21st century. So we may just press the pause button here for several years, but China is pressing the fast-forward button.

What we’ll find is we’re way behind those Chinese folks…They plan on leading the future. So whether you — if you’re a free enterprise conservative here — just think: it’s a bunch of hooey, this science is a bunch of hooey. But if you miss the commercial opportunity, you’ve really missed something.

Former House Science Committee Chair Sherry Boehlert (R-NY) also counseled his compatriots against this attack on science.

The new Congress should have a policy debate to address facts rather than a debate featuring unsubstantiated attacks on science. We shouldn’t stand by while the reputations of scientists are dragged through the mud in order to win a political argument. And no member of any party should look the other way when the basic operating parameters of scientific inquiry — the need to question, express doubt, replicate research and encourage curiosity — are exploited for the sake of political expediency. My fellow Republicans should understand that wholesale, ideologically based or special-interest-driven rejection of science is bad policy. And that in the long run, it’s also bad politics.

Inglis and Boehlert are urging Republican leaders to reject the unfair, anti-science attacks aimed at Fred Upton and his common sense light bulb efficiency legislation.  Hopefully, he and his colleagues will refrain from hurling such false, destructive charges at Carol Browner, scientists or other administration officials.  If not, they will demonstrate the same ignorance, selfishness, and economic obliviousness shown by Upton’s attackers.

Daniel J. Weiss is Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy, Center for American Progress Action Fund

Climate Progress

Energy and Global Warming News for November 22nd: Man-made CO2 emissions set to be highest in history; Marcellus Shale gas fracking poses risks; Latinos, Asians more worried about environment

November 22, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Carbon emissions set to be highest in history

Emissions of man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are roaring ahead again after a smaller-than-expected dip due to the worldwide recession. Scientists are forecasting that CO2 emissions from burning coal, oil and gas will reach their highest in history this year.

Levels of the man-made greenhouse gas being dumped into the atmosphere have never been higher and are once again accelerating. Scientists have revised their figures on global CO2 emissions, showing that levels fell by just 1.3 per cent in 2009 – less than half of what was expected. This year they are likely to increase by more than 3 per cent, greater than the average annual increase for the last decade.

The figures come after more than 20 years of dire warnings from scientists that governments need to begin curbing emissions drastically if the world is to avoid potentially dangerous climate change later this century.

In the 1990s, annual average emissions of carbon dioxide rose by 1 per cent, and in the past decade they increased at an average annual rate of 2.5 per cent. This year they are on target to accelerate even faster in the coming decade if governments fail to reach an agreement on CO2 targets at the UN meeting on climate change in Cancun, Mexico, which begins this month.

The latest analysis, by Professor Pierre Friedlingstein of Exeter University and Professor Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia, show that national attempts to stabilise carbon dioxide have been too feeble to have any noticeable impact on global emissions.

Profs: Wells pose threat

PITTSBURGH – With the potential to release uranium and other hazardous materials, the process of Marcellus Shale drilling and hydraulic fracturing must be tightly regulated, university professors said Friday.

During the “Health Effects of Shale Gas Extraction” conference at the University of Pittsburgh — located in the city whose council this week unanimously voted to outlaw Marcellus drilling within its boundaries — professors from numerous institutions spoke of the dangers associated with the process.

Jane Clougherty, Pitt professor of environmental and occupational health, also noted some of the rural areas — such as those in Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties that are seeing increasingly more drilling activity — may be used for the purpose of benefiting big cities.

Many of the instructors, students and concerned residents in attendance heard professors speak on the dangers of both drilling the deep and horizontal wells required for Marcellus extraction, as well as the fracturing, or “fracking,” method used to break the shale to release the gas. Tracy Bank, assistant professor of geology at the University of Buffalo in New York, told the group, “Uranium is being mobilized by the fracking process.”

“Concentrations are fairly low,” she said of uranium’s presence in the water used to frack a well. “But they are high enough that it should not be treated like your drinking water.”

Though Bank said she does not consider uranium to be radioactive in terms of her research, she noted the element’s toxicity can lead to liver and kidney damage in humans.

Latinos, Asians more worried about environment than whites, poll finds

California’s Latino and Asian voters are significantly more concerned about core environmental issues, including global warming, air pollution and contamination of soil and water, than white voters, according to the latest Los Angeles Times/USC poll.

For example, 50% of Latinos and 46% of Asians who responded to the poll said they personally worry a great deal about global warming, compared with 27% of whites. Two-thirds of Latinos and 51% of Asians polled said they worry a great deal about air pollution, compared with 31% of whites.

Similarly, 85% of Latinos and 79% of Asians said they worry a great or a fair amount about contamination of soil and water by toxic waste, compared with 71% of whites.

The poll surveyed 1,689 adults by telephone. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

“Latinos and Asians are far more likely to be registered as Democrats than whites, and Democrats hold these views more closely,” said Peyton Craighill, who supervised the poll.

Electric car charging stations coming to heart of oil country in Texas

A U.S. utility is planning to build a network of electric vehicle charging stations in Houston that would be available to subscribers for a flat fee, the first such network of its kind in the nation. NRG Energy Inc., a New Jersey-based power company, plans to install private and public charging stations across the city, at a cost of $ 10 million. For $ 49 per month, customers would receive their own private charging station; for $ 79 per month, they would have access to a network of 50 stations located across the city at retail locations, such as Best Buy and Walgreens.

With more electric vehicles rolling onto U.S. roads, the company said it sees an opportunity to be part of the growing market to power vehicles. If the Houston model works, the company said it will build similar networks in other major U.S. cities, including New York and Dallas. Initially, NRG will focus on states where the retail electricity industry is deregulated, including Texas. “That’s a very attractive market for the electricity industry,” said David Crane, NRG’s president and CEO.

Aid money to build solar panels and wind turbines in Africa

The British tax payer is to invest millions of pounds into solar panels and wind turbines in Africa and Asia as part of a new drive to help poor countries by developing green business.

Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, said aid money will be used in a new way to tackle climate change, as well as funding health and education.

In a controversial move, the Coalition Government will be using tax-payer’s money to encourage private investors to put further funds towards ‘green’ development projects. However aid agencies and charities argue it is dangerous to involve big business in aid because they will only help people while there is the potential for profit.

Mr Mitchell announced two public-private partnership projects in Africa and Asia to stimulate investment in renewable energy schemes.

The UK Government has already put aside £2.9 billion of the aid budget to tackle climate change over the next four years.

Next Green Car launches “Approved” vehicle list

Let’s say you’re looking to buy a new vehicle and have decided that it’s time to get behind the wheel of a “greener” ride. Aside from spending hours online researching autos, how can you determine which vehicle is the right one for you? Well, a quick and easy way is to head over to Next Green Car’s site and skim its newly launched “Next Green Car Approved 2010” model list.

Broken down by vehicle class (city car, supermini, small/large family, multi-purpose, sports utility, executive and sports/cabrio), the list provides simple visuals to help car buyers quickly identify green vehicles. Next Green Car’s “Approved” list rates each vehicle in several categories, including GC Rating (overall), combined miles per gallon, CO2 emissions, tax band (applicable for buyers in the UK) and fuel type.

The list, updated monthly, will include any new vehicle available in the UK that meets the stringent guidelines laid out by Next Green Car. Hit up the site and see if the ride that you dream of owning meets Next Green Car’s approval.

‘Forgotten’ forests store carbon

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 (UPI) — While the deforestation of tropical rainforests is seen as a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, the impact of cool-weather rainforests tends to be overlooked when addressing climate change, a panel of scientists said.

These “forgotten” rainforests store more carbon per acre than tropical rainforests, the scientists said in Washington Wednesday while introducing “Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World: Ecology and Conservation,” a book to be released next month.
Temperate and boreal rainforests are found in 10 regions of the world, including the coastal rainforests that stretch from the California Redwoods to British Columbia and Alaska, to the lesser-known rainforests in South Africa, Japan, Europe and the Russian Far East.

In the United States, the Top 10 national forests with the highest carbon storage are in western Oregon, Washington and Alaska. These rainforests store nearly 9.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents or roughly twice the amount of the nation’s emissions from burning fossil fuels annually, the book says.

Greening the Blue Helmets: the UN Goes Green

The United Nations might be the body long responsible for hosting the forum for international agreement on climate change, so it’s about time it gets its own climate house in order.

Imogen Martineau of Martineau & Co. is responsible for this task and she’s using web 2.0 tools to do it. Though when I asked her how she was using social media to catalyze behavioural change, she wanted to be clear, “a website can’t turn down the heating or turn down the air conditioning or shut the window, you need people to do that. The way we use it is what’s important– it’s the messaging and how you present information.”

Greening the Blue Helmets: the UN Goes GreenThe United Nations might be the body long responsible for hosting the forum for international agreement on climate change, so it’s about time it gets its own climate house in order.

Imogen Martineau of Martineau & Co. is responsible for this task and she’s using web 2.0 tools to do it. Though when I asked her how she was using social media to catalyze behavioural change, she wanted to be clear, “a website can’t turn down the heating or turn down the air conditioning or shut the window, you need people to do that. The way we use it is what’s important– it’s the messaging and how you present information.”

Greening the Blue website presents information about how the UN can green itself in several different formats, “All the evidence shows that the doomsday scenario stuff doesn’t work,” says Martineau, “People like aspirational engaging positive messages. It’s what advertisers have been using for decades but the green movement has been slow to pick up on.”

People divide into three groups, explains Martineau (citing research by WWF and Cultural Dynamics): about 2%, will be swayed with a moral and intellectual argument. “Most greenies,” she says, “fall into this group.”

Climate Progress

Madison Weeps: Neither Barton nor Upton Should Chair Energy and Commerce Committee

November 22, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

To paraphrase an old saying, you can learn a lot about a man by seeing how he acts when no one is paying attention. A corollary to this works for Congressmen. In any given year there are, at most, three or four “big” issues that dominate Congressional debate and culminate in dramatic floor votes that will define future reelection campaigns. For example, the current Congress can be distilled to essentially four votes; stimulus, cap and trade, Obamacare and the bank bailout. The next Congress will likely be defined by tax policy, federal spending and repeal of parts of Obamacare and the banking bill.

How a Congressman votes on these “big” issues will tell you a lot about his basic philosophy of government. But, it is an imperfect snapshot. The overwhelming majority of lawmakers will line up with their parties on the “big” votes. These few votes don’t tell you a lot about the individual lawmaker’s comprehensive philosophy nor their specific views on the powers and limitations of their office. For that, you have to look at their work on the thousands of bills that wind their way through the legislative process every year and, more importantly, their own specific legislative proposals.  In other words, we have to look at the work they do when no one else is looking.

It is on this that the bids of both Rep. Joe Barton and Rep. Fred Upton to chair the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee fail. Each has promoted specific and personal legislative proposals which are impossible to square with any belief in restrained, limited government. Worse, their initiatives betray the absence of what is perhaps the most important quality in a lawmaker, humility. Not personal humility, but rather an appreciation that there are limits to what Congress or the federal government can or should do. Both Barton and Upton seem convinced that absolutely every problem, perceived problem or general annoyance can, and should, be addressed by Congress.

This should disqualify them from the Chairman’s gavel. Should either of them be entrusted by their colleagues with the gavel, then the meaning of the midterms will be greatly diminished. The great tea party wave will have finally crashed on the rocks of the go-along-get-along DC GOP establishment.

The case against Joe Barton and Fred Upton is very, very simple. It comes down to exactly one data point against each. Joe Barton believes that Congress should regulate how a certain group of America’s colleges select a ‘national champion’ in football. Fred Upton’s most recent legislative ‘victory’ was securing the power of Congress to mandate which lightbulbs Americans can purchase to light their homes.

Admittedly, I’m not a close follower of college football’s BCS system. I know there is a lot of controversy over how the NCAA selects teams for individual bowl games and dictates which two teams will play for the National Champion title. I understand that there are whole acres of the Internet devoted solely to arguing over this issue. I get that feelings are often hurt and egos bruised. I also get that this has absolutely nothing to do with Congress or the federal government.

Imagine you are shivering in the cold at Valley Forge, fighting for your country’s freedom. An angel from the future appears and reassures you, “Hang in there. If you win this fight, in just a couple hundred years, your heirs will be able to absolutely determine which bunch of 18 and 20 years olds playing a game can authoritatively state that they are ‘national champions.’ Booyah!”

By some philosophy of government that I can’t imagine, Joe Barton thinks Congress should regulate college football. In fact, he is the leading proponent of this in Congress.  Last year, he wrote this in an op-ed:

The one thing that can never be forgotten in this debate is that college football is more than a game; it’s a multibillion-dollar industry. That makes it interstate commerce and a legitimate candidate for congressional oversight. And let’s not forget that many of the schools getting shut out of the bowl cash bonanza are taxpayer-funded institutions.

An interpretation of the interstate commerce clause that includes regulating a college game can regulate absolutely anything. And, Barton’s crusade shows no sign of abating.

In October of this year, just a month before the midterms, Barton sent a letter to the IRS, urging them to go after certain college bowl organizations. Again, because he doesn’t like how they run a certain tournament. It is impossible to argue you are a limited government conservative if you are willing to leverage your office to release the hounds of the IRS on a private organization with whom you have a disagreement. About…a…game…played…by…teenagers.

What’s next for Barton? Which genre of music Miley Cirus sings? What Justin Bieber tweets? In Barton’s world, those are clearly issues of interstate commerce, right?

Aside from this silliness, Barton’s bid to chair the Committee faces a more serious, existential problem; it violates House GOP rules. Barton spent one term as Chair of the Committee and two terms as ranking member. Three terms as either Chairman or ranking member.

In the wake of the 1994 GOP takeover, the House GOP caucus passed the following rule, which is still in effect:

No individual shall serve more than three consecutive terms as Chairman or ranking member of a standing, select, joint, or ad hoc Committee or Subcommittee

Barton and his supporters claim the rule is “ambiguous.” I’ve never met that definition of ambiguous. If Barton can interpret that simple language in a way that benefits him, there is no telling what he can do with actual ambiguous language.

The Energy and Commerce Committee is one of the more powerful in Congress. But for the humility of its members, it has the ability to regulate everything in our lives. The only defense we have against its intervention is the restraint of its Chairman and members that certain issues are beyond the authority of Congress.

Barton thinks the committee can do whatever Barton wants. He may vote “right” on “big” issues, but he has lost his way on the issues that really matter, the issues that give you a measure of the man. He is disqualified.

Tomorrow, I will address Rep. Upton’s bid. As a preview, he is also disqualified and Rep. Barton makes a cameo appearance.

Big Government

Fred Upton Saying All The Right Things About Energy

November 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

You remember Fred, right? He’s the Republican that pushed through legislation to ban most incandescent light bulbs. Now, though

Rep. Fred Upton told E2 Thursday that he would not steer a sweeping energy measure through the panel if he becomes chairman. ??That would be a sharp contrast to current Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who moved a nearly 1,100-page climate and energy bill through the committee in 2009, a measure that narrowly passed the House but died in the Senate.

“You are never going to see a 1,000 page bill,” Upton said as he departed the Capitol building. “You are never going to see cap-and-trade or a carbon tax.”?? He said the country is “ill-prepared” to meet projections of rising electricity demand.

Upton – while insisting that “I’m not measuring the drapes” – said he would seek to meet demand by boosting nuclear power, “safe drilling,” “clean” coal, renewable energy, and natural gas.?? “The whole portfolio,” he said. ??“I envision lots of bills that will have bipartisan support to help meet the challenge,” he said. “I want there to be no reason for folks to vote ‘no’. . . . No one will have an excuse not to have the time to read the bill.”

You can start by repealing that idiotic CFL legislation, Fred. BTW, I’m still awaiting a response from him or his staff as to whether he has replaced all his own lightbulbs in his office and home with CFLs. Not holding my breath, but, I will be happy to visit his Washington, D.C. office next time I am in town, to ask some pointed questions.

Deeper into the article, we learn that Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) is being coy on whether or not he will challenge Princess Lisa to lead Republicans on the powerful Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach. sit back and Relax. we’ll dRive!

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