Archive for September, 2011

New Economic Analysis: Coal Expensive, Underregulated

Posted By Lowell F. on September 30th, 2011

Back in February, a new Harvard study found that “when the entire life-cycle of coal is considered — extraction, transport, processing, and combustion,” they add up to a cost to the American people of “roughly US$300 to US$500 billion dollars annually.”  Then, in April, we wrote about our interview with Professor Michael Hendryx of West Virginia University, whose research has found that coal mining “is a loser economically, environmentally, and in terms of public health.” Now we’ve got yet another economic analysis coming to the same conclusions.

When the authors add in highly conservative estimates of the cost of carbon dioxide pollution, they find that “the damages caused by oil- and coal-fired power plants are between 30 and 40 percent higher.” With an estimated social cost of carbon — a damage estimate of global warming pollution — of $65 (far less than other estimates), the [Gross External Damages - GED] for coal-fired generators is $0.21/kilowatts.

In other words, instead of being “cheap” and “affordable,” coal is actually the costliest fuel for electricity.

“The findings show that, contrary to current political mythology, coal is underregulated,” Legal Planet’s Dan Farber comments. “On average, the harm produced by burning the coal is over twice as high as the market price of the electricity. In other words, some of the electricity production would flunk a cost-benefit analysis. This means that we’re either not using enough pollution controls or we’re just overusing coal as a fuel.”

Actually, we’re doing both: not using enough pollution controls AND overusing coal as a fuel.  Fortunately, we know how to eliminate both of those problems: by removing coal subsidies, by internalizing coal’s externalities, and by removing the obstacles holding back clean energy from rapidly taking coal’s place in America’s energy picture.

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Five Energy Articles We’re Reading Today (9/30/11)

Posted By Lowell F. on September 30th, 2011

Here are five recommended reads for today (9/30/11)

  1. Inside Climate News reports, “Canada’s energy regulator said on Wednesday it is looking into a complaint that TransCanada Corp’s permit to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline within its own borders has expired, adding the prospect of more delays to a project environmentalists hope to block.”
  2. Phyllis Cuttino of the Pew Clean Energy Program writes at the Huffington Post about “a new study by the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate,” entitled, “From Barracks to the Battlefield: Clean Energy Innovation and America’s Armed Forces.”
  3. Acording to Grist, “A new economic analysis of the costs of pollution to the United States finds that coal power is harming the economy,” with coal coming out as “actually the costliest fuel for electricity.”
  4. Clean Energy Authority reports, “Walmart announced late last week that the company will be installing solar arrays atop 60 more stores in California—meaning that 75 percent of California stores will be powered by renewable energy by 2013.”
  5. According to DeSmog Blog, “Proponents of the controversial Keystone XLpipeline project would like you to believe that, if approved, its construction will put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work. This is plainly untrue, according to a new report by the Cornell University Global Labor Institute.”
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Five Energy Articles We’re Reading Today (9/29/11)

Posted By Lowell F. on September 29th, 2011

Here are five recommended reads for today (9/29/11)

  1. The LA Times reports, “The Energy Department approved two loan guarantees worth more than $1 billion for solar energy projects in Nevada and Arizona, two days before the expiration date of a program that has become a rallying cry for Republican critics of the Obama administration’s green energy program.”
  2. According to Think Progress Green, “A new report from the Center for American Progress’ Dan Weiss and Valeri Vasquez shows that even as Big Oil fights tooth and nail to preserve tax breaks that President Obama and congressional Democrats have proposed repealing, just five oil companies (Exxon, Shell, Chevron, BP, and ConocoPhillips) “are sitting on cash resources of $59 billion.” This pile of cash ‘is 30 times more than the estimated $2 billion in annual tax breaks that these companies receive.’”
  3. Writing at Climate Progress, Kiley Kroh argues, “Rather than being “job killers” that displace people working in the fossil fuel sector, clean energy investments are important ways to leverage the expertise of skills of workers in conventional energy.”
  4. The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog reports, “The Solyndra episode has generated reams of press coverage and fodder for political speeches, but this hasn’t changed voters views on clean energy, new research from a pair of Democratic and Republican pollsters suggests.” The article adds that the Solyndra story “has not undermined voter support for public investments in clean energy,” and that it “is still news junkie fodder,” not “dinner table conversation.”
  5. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), “the amount of global hydroelectric and other renewable electric generating capacity will rise 2.7% per year through 2035, more than any other electricity generating source.” In addition, EIA says that “installed solar power capacity sees the largest growth rate over the projection period, expanding 8.3% per year, based on EIA’s IEO2011 released on September 19, followed by 5.7% for wind, 3.7% for geothermal, 2.0% for hydropower, and 1.4% for other renewables such as wood waste, landfill gas, and agricultural byproducts.”
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EIA: “Renewable energy shows strongest growth in global electric generating capacity”

Posted By Lowell F. on September 29th, 2011

In spite of all the news media hype and political hot air with regard to the Solyndra story, in fact the rapid growth in clean energy continues unabated, with impressive projections for wind and solar from the  U.S. Energy Information Administration out to 2035:

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s International Energy Outlook 2011 (IEO2011) projects that the amount of global hydroelectric and other renewable electric generating capacity will rise 2.7% per year through 2035, more than any other electricity generating source (see chart above). The IEO2011 also projects that China and India will lead the way in adding hydroelectric and renewable electric generating capacity.

Among renewables, installed hydroelectric power capacity is expected to increase more than other renewable sources between 2008 and 2035. However, installed solar power capacity sees the largest growth rate over the projection period, expanding 8.3% per year, based on EIA’s IEO2011 released on September 19, followed by 5.7% for wind, 3.7% for geothermal, 2.0% for hydropower, and 1.4% for other renewables such as wood waste, landfill gas, and agricultural byproducts.

This forecast turns the Solyndra story into far more of a blip, and far less of a significant development, in the overall picture of world renewable energy growth.

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Five Energy Articles We’re Reading Today (9/28/11)

Posted By Lowell F. on September 28th, 2011

Here are five recommended reads for today (9/28/11)

  1. Renewable Energy World reports, “Recent data shows Germany continues to export electricity despite closing seven nuclear reactors. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that continued renewable energy expansion in Germany is driving down power prices.”
  2. According to the New York Times Green blog, “Canada’s Arctic ice shelves, formations that date back thousands of years, have been almost halved in size over the last six years, Canadian researchers said on Tuesday.” The reason? “Consistently higher temperatures in Canada’s Arctic, the researchers said, were the main cause of the dramatic decline.”
  3. Mark Muro and Jonathan Rothwell argue at Climate Progress that attacks on the Department of Energy’s loan program, including to Solyndra, “fundamentally misunderstands the nature of an imperfect but invaluable clean energy finance program.” To the contrary, Muro and Rothwell write, “the DOE’s loan guarantee program will likely result in minimal costs and large gains for taxpayers—just like many other federal lending efforts.”
  4. At Think Progress Green, Brad Johnson quotes former President Bill Clinton, “Do whatever you want about Solyndra, but do not insult my intelligence by trying to say that the big oil companies are right and the green tech people are wrong.” Clinton adds, “We can’t burn up the planet. We’ve got to find an economically sustainable way to save it. Green energy jobs have grown at twice the rate of overall economy jobs in the last decade, they pay 20 to 30 percent more, they’re directly responsible for a $60 billion trade surplus.”
  5. David Roberts has an article at Grist entitled, “Attention, pundits: We have the makings of a serious U.S. solar program.” Roberts cites three pieces of news: “The military has contracted with SolarCity for a five-year, $1 billion project called SolarStrong to put solar panels on the roofs of 160,000 housing complexes on 124 military bases in 33 states;”the Department of Energy has an extremely cool program going called the SunShot Initiative;” and “Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) has long been pushing a bill called the ‘10 Million Solar Roofs Act.’”
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