Archive for January, 2012

Potentially Good News on Keeping Water Supplies Safe from Fracking?

Posted By Lowell F. on January 26th, 2012

Here’s some potentially good news from Pennsylvania with regard to keeping our water supplies safe:

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission will reconsider more than 20 water permits it approved for Marcellus Shale gas drillers during a raucous meeting last month that was disrupted by anti-drilling activists.

The SRBC said Monday that it will hear new public comment Feb. 16 for water-withdrawal applications it approved in December. Environmental organizations have questioned the validity of the commission’s vote, which was conducted hastily after shouting demonstrators interrupted public testimony.

The panel still regards its approval of 24 water withdrawals as valid, but will reconsider its decisions after the new hearing.

Let’s hope they reach the right decision this time around.

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President Obama: “I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy”

Posted By Lowell F. on January 26th, 2012

A significant section of President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night discussed energy issues.  According to David Roberts of Grist, it’s important to emphasize that the president “does not control domestic policy,” that “this Congress has shown little appetite for doing, um, anything, [therefore] it’s highly unlikely that Obama’s proposals will become law,” and that “in an election year, the SOTU shows which fights the administration feels comfortable fighting and thinks it can win.”

Given all those caveats, this SOTU could have taken the easy way out, barely mentioned energy, let alone risen to a defense of clean energy. Surprisingly, though, as David Roberts points out, what President Obama ended up doing was actually a pleasant surprise: referencing fossil fuel policies “that are already in place,” in order “to set Obama up for a strong defense of clean energy.” Which is, at it turns out, exactly what happened:

That’s what I was watching for: whether the president would back down on clean energy in the face of coordinated GOP assault. (Solyndra is the battle flag of Republicans, but they’re going after clean energy on multiple fronts.)

He did not. Instead, he doubled down: “Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy.” The portion of the speech on clean energy policy was both longer and stronger than I expected. This is the killer bit:

“I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising.”

Even better, as Roberts explains, this part of the speech was highly popular with focus groups, as, “no matter how much money the Chamber of Commerce spends on attack ads, Americans love clean energy.”  Given those warm feelings, the conclusion is that politicians certainly will not be harmed, and probably will be helped, by campaigning for wind, solar, geothermal, energy efficiency, etc.  Let’s hope they realize this as the 2012 election season proceeds, and that Americans vote for candidates who pledge not to “walk away from the promise of clean energy!”

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Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (1/25/12)

Posted By Lowell F. on January 25th, 2012

Here are five recommended reads for today (1/25/12)

  1. The Hill reports, “Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is getting close to unveiling a proposed ‘clean’ electric power standard – a plan President Obama admitted Tuesday night has not gained the traction that Obama had hoped.”
  2. In the State of the Union speech last night, President Obama declared, “I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy.” President Obama added: “We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and create these jobs.”
  3. According to Military & Aerospace, “Systems designers at Lockheed Martin Corp. in Eagan, Minn., are moving ahead with a U.S. Air Force-sponsored project to develop and demonstrate a green hybrid small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that runs on renewable energy as part of the second phase of the Air Force Small Unmanned Renewable enerGy long Endurance Vehicle (SURGE-V) program.”
  4. The Economist reports that solar power “is getting cheaper by the day, and is now cheap enough to be competitive with other forms of energy in places that are not attached to electricity grids. Since 1.6 billion people are still in that unfortunate position, a large potential market for solar energy now exists.”
  5. According to, “Increasingly…Utilities, the oil and gas industry, agricultural companies and insurers are building assumptions about rising temperatures and extreme weather events into their scenario planning.”
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Joe Romm Rebuts Wired Story Attacking Cleantech

Posted By Lowell F. on January 24th, 2012

There’s a new story at Wired Magazine, dramatically – but misleadingly – entitled “Why the Clean Tech Boom Went Bust.”  In addition to the misleading title, the article also comes with not-particularly-subtle images of a wind turbine and a container of biodiesel on fire and spewing smoke. As for the article itself, the tone is most definitely not optimistic:

Anyone who has heard the name Solyndra knows how this all panned out. Due to a confluence of factors—including fluctuating silicon prices, newly cheap natural gas, the 2008 financial crisis, China’s ascendant solar industry, and certain technological realities—the clean-tech bubble has burst, leaving us with a traditional energy infrastructure still overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels. The fallout has hit almost every niche in the clean-tech sector—wind, biofuels, electric cars, and fuel cells—but none more dramatically than solar.

In fact, about the most enthusiasm this article can manage to summon up for clean energy is that it “is far from dead” — not exactly a ringing endorsement. Even worse, the article spends much of its time talking about one specific company with its own specific business model and its own specific reason for going bankrupt. That company is Solyndra, and despite reams of ink being spilled covering its demise, there’s still no indication that it’s indicative of some sort of systemic problem in solar, or in cleantech, generally. Yet the Wired article uses Solyndra as its prime example to prove its point, that (supposedly) “the clean-tech bubble has burst.”

There’s only one problem with this argument, and with the article in general. It’s not true. As Joe Romm of  Climate Progress explains, in a detailed, point-by-point rebuttal, “The story simply doesn’t justify the headline.” Instead, Romm believes, “the magazine itself clearly wanted a sensationalistic headline — and even more sensationalistic photo — to get eyeballs in this highly competitive media environment.” Romm proceeds to – as he puts it – “debunk [the] absurd hit-job on solar and wind power.”  Here’s an excerpt:

You’d never know from the Wired piece that in 2010, America was a net exporter of $1.9 billion in solar products.   You’d never know that the U.S. solar industry grew 100% in 2010 and another 100% in 2011, making  it perhaps the “fastest growing” industry in America.

How does Wired make the case that the solar industry is a bust when there are ”over 100,000 Americans are working in the solar Industry.”

We recommend that you read the entire piece by Joe Romm. We”d also mention that the U.S. Energy Information Admninistration (EIA), yesterday, put out its latest long-term energy outlook for the United States, and the forecast for solar and wind were about as far from the Wired article as can be.

For instance, according to EIA, “Non-hydro renewable sources more than double between 2010 and 2035,” with “Renewables and natural gas fuel [making up] a growing share of electric power generation” during that period.  Far from being the sign of an industry in its death throes, the EIA forecast indicates that cleantech will be thriving for decades to come, long after sensationalistic articles about its supposed demise have been completely forgotten.

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Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (1/24/12)

Posted By Lowell F. on January 24th, 2012

Here are five recommended reads for today (1/24/12)

  1. The Wall Street Journal reports, “This year’s outlook is grim for the U.S coal industry, which after two years of rising profits has begun closing mines, signaling a new wave of production cutbacks and, possibly, another round of industry consolidation.”
  2. According to an AP story: “Even as sections of Kansas struggled with drought last year, oil exploration companies pushed into the state to drill for oil and gas with horizontal hydraulic fracturing, a method that relies on water. The burst of drilling pushed temporary water permits for oil and gas exploration in Kansas to a nearly 30-year high.”
  3. Energy Boom reports, “The Ohio Power Siting Board, the state utility regulatory agency, has given the green light to start building the Black Fork Wind Farm, a 200-megawatt facility that will be capable of generating enough clean electricity to power 10,000 homes.”
  4. DeSmogBlog asks whether the demise of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project could mean “more Bakken Shale gas flaring.”
  5. Brad Johnson of Think Progress Green writes: “Congressional Republicans are now openly acting as advocates for foreign oil interests, colluding with TransCanada lobbyists to push their tar sands agenda. House and Senate staff for Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND), Dick Lugar (R-IN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and others gathered Monday afternoon for a conference call with TransCanada lawyers “to plot out how to push the Obama administration on the Keystone XL pipeline.”
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