Archive for December, 2010

Anti-American Interest Crowd Endangers U.S. Economy, National Security

Posted By Lowell F. on December 20th, 2010

Last Wednesday’s New York Times had a troublingly familiar article, yet another example of how China, and not the United States, “increasingly dominates the manufacture of clean energy technologies…including the production of million-dollar wind turbines.” Even worse, according to this article, “The United States is too reliant on China for minerals crucial to new clean energy technologies, making the American economy vulnerable to shortages of materials needed for a range of green products — from compact fluorescent light bulbs to electric cars to giant wind turbines.”

The fact is, China is racing ahead on all cylinders when it comes to developing clean energy. This includes plans to invest “5 trillion yuan ($738 billion) in the next decade developing cleaner sources of energy to reduce emissions from burning oil and coal;” a massive push for high-speed rail; and a “Green Leap Forward” that includes “mandatory efficiency improvements for the 1,000 biggest energy consumers,” “higher fuel efficiency standards than cars in the US will need to meet in 2020,” “closing down hundreds of old, inefficient factories and thermal power plants,” and “plans to develop a smart grid – a super-efficient, flexible transmission network that helps to integrate widespread development of renewable energy – by 2020 at an estimated cost of almost $600 billion.”

Meanwhile, the dirty energy lobby used the catastrophic Citizens United Supreme Court decision to buy a Congress that is now heavily populated with the foolish and the bought. These are people who can’t seem to get their heads out of 19th and early 20th century energy sources – coal and oil, in particular – and make the transition to a 21st century that will be dominated by clean energy.

Exhibit A is the proudly stupid Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), who assured himself that climate change was nothing to worry about because the Book of Genesis has God’s promise never to destroy the earth again. Then there’s Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, who explained to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical,” that “[e]very time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide,” and that “[e]very cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you’ve got more carbon dioxide.”

If the new speaker could get his mind off cows’ behinds, maybe he wouldn’t be so proudly stupid, either. And there’s Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), the incoming chair of the House energy committee, who has “questioned the science of man-made global warming and called for Congressional hearings to investigate climate scientists.” Former Senator George “Macaca” Allen has begun his 2012 Senate run with a launch of the anti-clean energy American Energy Freedom Center, underwritten by ExxonMobil. And there’s Senator-elect Pat Toomey (R) of Pennsylvania, who wants the U.S. to spend its time and focus opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), with its 1 cent-per-gallon impact on the price of gasoline, and “develop[ing] the vast oil shale reserves in America’s western states,” with practices that permanently contaminate the nations’ drinking water supplies.

Soon-to-be Senator Toomey is the case in point of not getting it. His state’s citizens could be going back to work in clean energy, but the U.S. clean energy market hasn’t gotten the needed support from its leaders.

As the New York Times reported: “The American manufacturing sector had been so weakened in recent decades” that the Spanish wind turbine manufacturer, Gamesa, “now ships the Chinese [10-ton steel] frame [that keeps a wind turbine’s gearbox and generator aligned even under gale-force conditions] halfway around the world for turbines that Gamesa assembles at its American plant in Fairless Hills, Pa.”

There’s a reason far more Americans now see China than the United States as the world’s strongest economy. They have “leaders” in Congress who serve dirty energy lobbyists while they push U.S. economic leadership in clean energy technologies off our shores as fast as possible.

That has real consequences. Paul Kennedy wrote in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers that without a strong economic base, there’s no possibility of maintaining a strong national security posture in the world.

At this moment of greatest economic need, we should remember what Thomas Friedman recently wrote: “There is no America B,” so we’d better make this one work a lot better than we’ve been doing, and not only for our sake.” America can only be served by forward-looking, smart plans. America is certainly not served by the proudly stupid, people who should not be rewarded for their ignorance, much less elected to Congress.

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VentureBeat Editor: 4 Tips for Making a Good Pitch to People Like Me

Posted By Lowell F. on December 17th, 2010

Last month, VentureBeat Executive Editor Owen Thomas kicked off Tigercomm’s Expert Communicators Series with a wide-ranging discussion about social media, energy, and cleantech. We previously discussed Owen Thomas’ thoughts on marketing the cleantech sector in a “visceral” manner, not just in a dry, intellectual way. And, we posted on his observations on why Google is interested in energy space, and how successful it might be there.

Today, we condense Thomas’s four tips for pitching people like him:

  1. Know who you are pitching: “The key is awareness of the writer or publication, awareness of the audience, awareness of the message.” According to Thomas, VentureBeat “really wants to know the business angle” and then communicate that to business decision makers.
  2. Be able to say why his audience should care: Business decision makers want to know “how does this affect their business.” According to Thomas, “If you can articulate that, if you can say what the business impact is, if you can say why the VentureBeat reader cares, then you’re going to have a leg up” in terms of your pitch.
  3. Don’t fear the general email box – At VentureBeat, everyone reads the general email box. If you send your pitch to one person and not to tips, then that person might not be available. “But if you send it to tips, someone is going to pick it up.”
  4. Think beyond the phone – Thomas recommends using instant message, believes it’s “more convenient for your client, it’s more convenient for me” than a phone interview. Thomas adds that instant messaging is “an efficient way to communicate…much better than email,” because it’s in real time and is more immediate than email.

Definitely some pointers to keep in mind next time you’re making a pitch, whether to VentureBeat or anyone else.

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T. Boone’s Flip-Flop on Wind: Need for RES, Grid Upgrades, and a Memo to Gas Industry That Fracking Is a Dead End

Posted By mikec on December 17th, 2010

Earlier this week, MSNBC reported that oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens, author of the “Pickens Plan” – to switch America heavily into natural gas and wind power, plus energy efficiency and solar, primarily for national security and economic reasons – is dropping the wind component from the plan. According to the MSNBC report, Pickens will now “focus primarily on his other big business interest: natural gas.”

This is the same T. Boone Pickens who ran expensive TV ads about how America’s goal should be to produce “20% of electricity from wind power in 10 years,” and who traveled around the country saying things like: 1) “We have a beautiful wind corridor from Texas to Canada. And we have an equally beautiful solar corridor from Texas to California;” and 2) “We’re blessed with some of the best wind and solar resources in the world. The Department of Energy estimates that we can produce 22% of our country’s electrical energy needs just by utilizing the wind resource in the Great Plains. And actually, if you wanted to go beyond 22 percent, you could go to 40, 60, 80, whatever you want, because that resource is unlimited.”

Why throw wind power out of the plan when it’s experiencing explosive growth around the world?

1) According to Public Citizen Energy Program Director Tyson Slocum, Pickens “stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars” and “doesn’t see wind personally as a lucrative investment anymore.”

2) According to MSNBC, “Pickens now says Canada is more appealing because the country has renewable energy standards that require energy companies to buy certain amounts of wind power.”

3) Energy Boom notes that “construction of the wind farm was hampered by a lack of transmission lines to transfer the energy to city centers.”

Why the change? What’s different and what’s the same since Pickens ran his TV ads?

  • The legislation for both an RES and also a so-called “Clean Energy Standard” (CES) stalled.
  • The coal and oil industries used the Citizens United decision to buy a Congress filled with people who are either proudly dumb (Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois actually quoted Genesis at a hearing of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment as “evidence” that climate change is not a problem, since ‘The Earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over”) or who are too bought to worry that China is aggressively promoting its clean energy industry and its domestic clean energy market
  • The need for an upgrade to the stayed the same, and that upgrade will still require an enormous investment.
  • We sent the same or more oil money to foreign dictators who hate America.
  • But, the natural gas industry decided it could get away with contaminating America’s water supplies through fracking and wouldn’t get caught until it was far too late.

It’s hard to say what drove Pickens to change, but it’s also hard to get past the sense that he wasn’t really sincere when he said the Pickens Plan wasn’t about him making money: “I’m 80 years old and have $4 billion. I don’t need any more money.”

Pickens clearly has broken with wind power. But looking at all that noise he made back then, maybe when he talked about helping America he was just breaking wind.

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Meet George Allen, Big Government Spender

Posted By Lowell F. on December 14th, 2010

Former Virginia Governor and U.S. Senator George “Macaca” Allen is now Chair of something called the American Energy Freedom Center. It seems like starting a front group is the default choice of every politician to leave politics (Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions for Winning the Future, and former Representative Bill Paxon’s Americans for Affordable Electricity).

True to form, George Allen’s front group is a PR firm masquerading as a non-profit policy center. It advocates “a future of abundant, affordable and reliable sources of American energy,” as opposed to “expensive, imported and highly regulated energy.”

What does that mean, exactly?

According to the American Energy Freedom Center’s website, it mostly appears to involve the following elements:

  • “Oppos[ing]…attacks on America’s largest source of energy: coal.”
  • Opposing “carbon and energy taxes,” as well as “expensive, job-killing climate regulations.”
  • Promoting coal as the opposite of “wind and solar,” namelyreliable, affordable, and proven.”
  • Propagating the falsehoods that “wind and solar” are “intermittent” and “cannot power our high-tech society’s ‘always-on — ready to go’ demand for baseload electricity needs.”
  • Pushing development of coal-to-liquids, coal synfuels, offshore energy development, and nuclear power.

As if all that’s not bad enough, a study posted on the American Energy Freedom Center’s website makes a series of outlandish claims about clean energy. For instance, did you know that “The U.S. can expect 2.2 jobs to be destroyed for every 1 renewable job financed by the government?” Or that “Only 1 in 10 of the jobs actually created through green investment is permanent?” Or that “Each “green” megawatt installed destroyed 5.39 jobs in non-energy sectors of the Spanish economy?” All completely false, of course, but what’s a few facts when big money’s at stake?

Yet another paper on the Center’s website mocks the notion that  “a massive program of government mandates, subsidies, and forced technological interventions will reward the nation with an economy brimming with ‘green jobs’.” The bottom line, according to the American Energy Freedom Center, is that “most ‘green jobs’ would simply not exist without sustained taxpayer subsidies and government mandates.”

The irony here is striking, given who’s behind the American Energy Freedom Center.

George Allen recently announced the formation of the American Energy Freedom Center, a project of the Institute for Energy Research, yet another group attempting to fight efforts to stop the climate crisis with connections to Exxon.

[…]

Almost 10% of the Institute for Energy Research’s 2007 budget was provided by ExxonMobil. In 2007, ExxonMobil donated $95,000 of the $988,980 received by the Institute for Energy Research. [ExxonMobil 2007 Worldwide Giving Report, accessed 5/13/09; IER 2008 Year in Review; 5/4/09]

Oh, and the president of the Institute for Energy Research “was formerly Director of Public Relations Policy at the legally challenged enterprise known as Enron.” Here’s an example of the type of “research” done by these propaganda factories:

In 2009 IER [ran] a campaign on “green jobs” attacking the expansion of renewables energies. IER commissioned three studies on renewable energies and green jobs in Denmark, Germany and Spain.[3] These studies by different think tanks were than promoted by IER and other free market think tanks in the US but also used in Europe.[4] The study on Germany e.g. was translated into German and taken up by German media – without mentioning that the study was financed by IER with its close business links. The German institute that wrote the study (called Rheinisch-westfaelisches Institut fuer Wirtschaftsforschung, RWI) didn’t acknowledge the funding from IER until they were challenged by investigative journalists.[5]

It would all be laughable if this disinformation campaign weren’t so well funded, coordinated, and aggressively directed at undercutting clean energy. It’s even more outrageous when you consider that the dirty energy industry – oil and coal in particular – got an estimated $72 billion of our tax money in the United States alone between 2002 and 2008. They got $312 billion worldwide in subsidies received by dirty energy in 2009 alone, according to the International Energy Agency.

Despite all this, George Allen’s propaganda platform continues to attack smart policies that support clean energy, while claiming that its preferred source of (heavily subsidized) energy – dirty coal and oil, in particular – somehow epitomizes “freedom.” Translation: big government subsidies are bad when they go to clean energy, great when even more of them go to dirty fossil fuels.

Here’s the reality: Americans want government spending cut and budgets balanced. And, like many dirty energy advocates, George Allen talks a tough game about cutting government spending — but he loves expensive welfare for dirty energy.

So, as George Allen prepares to run against war hero Jim Webb, he’s starting to put himself back in the public conversation. As he does this, early and often, he relies on Big Oil propaganda money and a veteran of disgraced Enron to give himself something to run around and talk about. The good news is that we can all see that George Allen is outing himself as a big government spender on highly profitable, mature, dirty energy industries — even as the majority of Americans want these companies kicked off welfare.

Senator Allen might be better off sticking to strained football clichés, and not feigning expertise about how taxpayers’ money is being spent on energy.

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Dominion Virginia Power Study Indicates Major Offshore Wind Development “Feasible”

Posted By Lowell F. on December 13th, 2010

Advocates of clean energy would not generally characterize Dominion Virginia Power as one of the “good guys.” In fact, I think it’s fair to say that many, if not most, of us think of this company — with its overwhelming reliance on coal and nuclear-powered plants — as unlikely to be interested in a “Virginia Offshore Wind Integration Study.”

Given many clean energy proponents’ less-than-stellar preconceptions of Dominion Virginia Power, we frankly expected the company’s study to conclude that wind was “too expensive,” “not ready for prime time,” too “unreliable,” etc. Because that’s the line that’s been pushed by the heavily subsidized coal industry, as well as by some of the dirty utilities that ally themselves with the coal industry.

Instead, the Dominion study concluded almost the exact opposite: integrating a 2,700-megawatt capacity (or larger) offshore wind power facility into its system is completely “feasible.” True, it would take significant investment to mitigate “several transmission deficiencies,” but the study indicated that those could be overcome fairly easily. And, as experts on the country’s electrical system, former President Bush, and President Obama all have concluded, the U.S. power grid needs upgrading anyway.

A few other key points from the Dominion Virginia Power study:

  • Offshore wind generation “is potentially thought to have a greater capacity factor than land-based wind generation facilities. This study assumed “a 33% capacity factor for its analysis, which is a conservative estimate based on current industry information.”
  • Dominion is currently “in the process of completing two major projects in the South Hampton Roads area,” which combined will “significantly strengthen the transmission system located” in the area.
  • Landsdown substation near the Virginia Beach Amphitheater would be the “natural location to interconnect proposed offshore wind facilities.” Advantages of this location include its proximity to the oceanfront and to the middle of the study area for potential offshore wind projects; the fact that multiple 230 kV lines are “bussed together” at that point; and the site’s potential room for expansion.
  • There are several transmission deficiencies identified, which would require $30 million to resolve for a 2,700-MW capacity wind farm, and $70 million for a 4,500-MW facility.
  • Integrating a 2,700 MW wind farm off the Virginia coast with Dominion’s land-based transmission system “is feasible.” Above 2,700 MW, it would be somewhat more challenging to integrate, but still feasible.
  • Finally, the study concludes, “Multiple connections would be more reliable to prevent single contingency events from losing large levels of generation.”

The bottom line is that Dominion Virginia Power appears to be seriously considering the potential for tapping into offshore wind power along the mid-Atlantic coast. This seems like a wise move at an opportune time by Dominion, given: 1) that region’s enormous wind power potential; 2) the Interior Department’s “Smart from the Start” Atlantic OCS Wind Initiative; and 3) recent news that “Google and a New York financial firm have each agreed to invest heavily in a proposed $5 billion transmission backbone for future offshore wind farms along the Atlantic Seaboard”

Unless, of course, the company decides that it’s happier staying locked in the dirty energy past, instead of moving into a bright new clean energy future. We’re hoping Dominion won’t miss this opportunity. We’ll be watching.

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