Archive for October, 2011

Five Energy Articles We’re Reading Today (10/31/11)

Posted By Lowell F. on October 31st, 2011

Here are five recommended reads for today (10/31/11)

  1. The European Wind Energy Association blog reports, “The latest evidence of China’s unrelenting faith in wind power comes in a report that predicts the rapidly-developing Asian nation could have 1,000 GW of installed wind power capacity by 2050.”
  2. According to Daniel Yergin, writing for CNN, “Around the world renewable energy is going through a rebirth. It is becoming a big business. It is also becoming a more established part of the world’s overall energy supply.”
  3. David Roberts of Grist argues, “Even as a kind of resigned fatalism-bordering-on-nihilism has gripped the political conversation, out in the world, clever people are doing ambitious, exciting things. Don’t let politics fool you: This is an amazing time to be involved in clean energy.”
  4. CleanTechnica reports, “The European Commission recently confirmed that €9.1 billion ($12.7 billion) for transmission networks would be included in the EU’s 2014-2020 budget plans. This is part of a €50-billion ($70-billion) infrastructure package. This is a big boon for (and probably largely driven by) offshore and onshore wind power projects across the continent.”
  5. The New York Times Green blog asks, “The Fracking Divide: Who Will Prevail in N.Y.?” One hint might be that “polls, some more scientific than others, in many of the areas most likely to see gas drilling tend to show overwhelming opposition of two-thirds or more, particularly to horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a controversial process that injects chemicals and massive amounts of water into shale to free natural gas. “
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Five Energy Articles We’re Reading Today (10/28/11)

Posted By Lowell F. on October 28th, 2011

Here are five recommended reads for today (10/28/11)

  1. Brendan DeMelle of DeSmogBlog writes: “The natural gas industry’s favorite public relations ploy about the necessity ofhydraulic fracturing (fracking), the process through which “clean natural gas” is now procured, is that the patriotic gas industry is championing the shale gas boom fordomestic consumption and for “national security purposes.” We now know definitively that this is pure propaganda. Enter the smoking gun, a 20-year $8 billion agreement signed between BGGroup, short for British Gas Group, and Houston-based Cheniere Energy.”
  2. Stephen Lacey of Climate Progress reports, “Speaking at a town hall meeting last weekend in his home state of Florida, [Congressman Cliff] Stearns displayed a very sketchy grasp on how subsidies should work, explaining to Climate Progress that incentives should be given to mature companies, not early-stage companies.”
  3. According to the Los Angeles Times, “The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled its road map for solar energy development, directing large-scale industrial projects to 285,000 acres of desert land in the western U.S. while opening 20 million acres of the Mojave for new development.”
  4. Reuters reports, “The European Commission’s plans to class fuel from oil sands, including Canada’s, as highly polluting are based on science and it will proceed with talks with EU member states to implement the measure, its climate commissioner said on Thursday.”
  5. According to Renewable Energy World, “For the second time this month, an international energy giant has jumped full throttle into renewable energy. A couple of weeks back, it was American-based General Electric that shook things upwith its announcement that it would build a solar thin-film manufacturing facility in Colorado. And this week it was Germany-based Siemens that has been heralded for its decision to enter the geothermal market with its new 60-megawatt steam turbine. The company made the announcement at the Geothermal Energy Association expo in San Diego.”
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Solar Foundation Director on Energy Policies States Like Virginia Should Be Pursuing

Posted By Lowell F. on October 27th, 2011

Recently, Andrea Luecke of the Solar Foundation provided a briefing on her organization’s release of a groundbreaking study on solar jobs in America.

The top line numbers were impressive, to say the least: more than 100,000 solar jobs in America, solar jobs up to 24 percent growth over the next 12 months, solar industry growth that is 10 times faster than the national economy as a whole over the last 12 months. However, not all states benefited equally. As Luecke discusses in the video, it basically comes down to whether a particular state has adopted smart energy policies — or not.

As Luecke explains, “the states that are doing well in terms of solar job creation are the states that have those integral policies like [Renewable Portfolio Standards -- RPS], net metering…local rebate programs…third-party purchase agreements.” In contrast, those states that have chosen not to put strong pro-solar policies into place are failing to reap the benefits that more enlightened states are seeing.

Virginia is a state that tends to fall into the less-enlightened category. Thus, although Virginia ranks #19 overall in the 2011 Solar Jobs Census, Luecke notes that “there are still many [pro-solar-energy] policies that Virginia lacks.” Policies like a strong, mandatory RPS, for instance, as well as a “solar carve-out” within that RPS. The lack of such policies means that, despite an overall business-friendly climate, Virginia’s ability to become the “energy capital of the East Coast,” as current Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has stated as a goal, is seriously impaired. To quote Tigercomm President Mike Casey, “It seems like some states are taking a pass on one of the fastest growing industries in America…they’re not making the policy investments to create an environment in which this industry can take root within their state’s borders.

Instead, in the case of Virginia, Gov. McDonnell appears heavily focused on 19th and early 20th century fossil fuels, including environmentally destructive coal (produced in Virginia by blowing up mountains) and dangerous, expensive offshore oil drilling, instead of looking forward to the clean energy revolution of the 21st century. If these policies are enacted and/or continued, what it will mean is that Virginia – and other states that pursue similar policies – will increasingly be left in the dust, as other states and other countries race ahead, take advantage of lucrative business opportunity, and create the high-quality, long-term jobs that could have gone, but didn’t due to erroneous energy policy choices, to states like Virginia.

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Five Energy Articles We’re Reading Today (10/27/11)

Posted By Lowell F. on October 27th, 2011

Here are five recommended reads for today (10/27/11)

  1. The Washington Post reports, “Venture capital investments in what the industry calls “clean tech” companies fell to $1.1 billion in the second quarter this year, a 44 percent decline from the second quarter of 2010, according to an analysis by the firm Ernst & Young. The number of deals involving clean-tech firms dropped 12 percent during the same period, according to a new analysis by the center-left think tank Third Way”
  2. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Royal Dutch Shell PLC Thursday said net profit for the third quarter more than doubled, driven by strong oil and rising natural gas prices and as major projects ramp up production…[to] $6.98 billion, more than double the $3.46 billion posted a year ago.”
  3. CNNMoney reports, “Exxon Mobil reported quarterly earnings of $10.3 billion on Thursday, a surge of 41% from a year earlier.Why? Higher prices for oil and natural gas.”
  4. Greentechmedia has an interesting article on “The Reality of a Successful US Wind Industry in 2011.” Among the findings are that this is “the busiest quarter the U.S. wind industry has had since 2008 and its third busiest quarter on record. There are more than 90 projects in the works across 29 states. In the third quarter of 2011 alone, the industry started construction on 2,130 megawatts.”
  5. Renewable Energy World asks, “In Australia, Can Renewable Energy Get Over the Tea Party Blues?”, as attempts “to initiate a new era of clean energy [are] facing such powerful opposition that some renewables companies that will benefit from the policy are scared to proactively campaign for it.”
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Dave Roberts: Direct Fossil Fuel Subsidies Just “tip of the (melting) iceberg”

Posted By Lowell F. on October 27th, 2011

We’ve written extensively here at Scaling Green on the subject of taxpayer-funded subsidies to the dirty energy industry.  That includes our interview with a top energy expert from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, who explained that, although there have been numerous attempts at counting energy subsidies — ranging from $10 billion a year by the Environmental Law Institute, to the more comprehensive, $52 billion a years by Doug Koplow of EarthTrack – “there’s no one really widely available number where average citizens can say, yeah, this much of my money goes to pay ExxonMobil.”

We’ve also interviewed West Virginia University Professor Michael Hendryx, who has found that mountaintop removal mining’s economic cost to Appalachian communities totaled roughly $42 billion per year in lost health and lives. Hendryx also contributed to a groundbreaking Harvard study which found that the full “lifecycle cost” of coal to the U.S. public is actually upwards of $500 billion a year.

On and on it goes — direct subsidies, indirect subsidies, uncounted health and environmental “lifecycle cost” and other “externalities” stemming from the production and consumption of fossil fuels.  It’s enormous and even mindboggling attempting to get a handle on all of this. Fortunately, as Dave Roberts of Grist points out, there’s “an updated report from consultancy Management Information Services Inc., which tries to tally up every kind of direct subsidy — tax credits, regulation, R&D money, etc. — from 1950 to 2010.”  Roberts boils it down for us: “fossil fuels have gotten the bulk of government help — 70 percent to renewables’ 10 percent, for a total of $594 billion in fossil-fuel subsidies over the last 60 years.”

Unfortunately, as Roberts explains, although these direct subsidies tell an important part of the story, “this kind of bean counting radically understates the fossil fuels’ built-in advantages” and “misses the two greatest sources of public support for fossil fuels, both of which are indirect, both of which dwarf direct subsidies.” A few of these costs include:

*”the extraordinary public health costs of air and water pollution”

*”the national security costs of reliance on oil, which account for at least some portion of the estimated $3 trillion cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars”

*”the costs of climate change”

*”demand for fossil fuels, which has been locked in by a century’s worth of massive and ongoing infrastructure spending”

Add up all these subsidies – direct and indirect – and  the totals would be utterly enormous if they could ever be definitively counted.  And, it should go without saying, these gigantic market distortions drastically and fundamentally tilt the “playing field” away from alternatives to fossil fuels, and relentlessly back towards the status quo.  As Roberts eloquently and succinctly concludes:

The simple fact is that modern industrial society was built by, around, and for fossil fuels….

Viewed in this light, fossil fuels and renewables are not really “competing” on some common “playing field.” Fossil fuels built the field; it is designed for their game. Renewables don’t just have to produce energy at competitive prices, they must bring along with them new applications, new infrastructure, new institutions and practices. To switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy is not like going from Coke to Pepsi; it is to build a new world.

Comparisons of direct subsidies capture only the tip of a giant iceburg — most of fossil fuels’ big advantages are invisible, beneath the surface, and entirely taken for granted.

So, the next time you hear a fossil fuel shill claim that dirty energy isn’t really subsidized, or even that it’s clean energy that can only exist with taxpayer-funded corporate welfare, we recommend that you point them to Dave Roberts’ brilliant article on this subject.

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