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11 Years and $1 Billion in Taxpayer Money Later — No “Zero-Emissions Coal Plant”

Posted By Lowell F. on August 25th, 2014

The next time the coal industry wags its finger at clean energy about “standing on its own two feet,” someone should tell them to pay for their taxpayer-funded “clean coal” science project.

In 2003, President George W. Bush unveiled plans for the world’s first zero-emissions coal plant, a project that would serve as a global showcase of America’s ability to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels…More than a decade later, there has yet to be a groundbreaking for FutureGen 2.0.

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Even the Energy Department now has doubts about whether FutureGen will succeed. Last year the department designated the FutureGen alliance charged with building the project as a “high-risk” grant recipient that might not be able to meet a September 2015 deadline for spending $1 billon in federal stimulus dollars, according to a document reviewed by The Seattle Times.

So, how come there isn’t constant coverage about this enormous boondoggle? It only seems fair, since seemingly every cleantech stumble is shouted from the rafters by fossil-fuel-funded “think tanks” and their allies in the media.

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MIT Study Finds Health Benefits of CO2 Reductions Can Save 10x the Cost of Policy Implementation

Posted By Lowell F. on August 25th, 2014

Clearly, we believe it makes sense to slash the air and water pollution that is inextricably linked to fossil fuel extraction, processing, and consumption.  We also strongly believe that moving from a dirty to a clean energy economy makes sense on a whole host of levels — economic, environmental, national security, health, etc.  Yet opponents of a clean energy transition invariably raise claims that it will cost too much to do so, even though research has shown that fossil fuels are actually FAR more expensive than they appear to be, in large part because they are allowed to pollute without having to pay for doing so. Thus, the full “lifecycle cost” of coal to the U.S. public is actually upwards of $500 billion a year, but you won’t find that $500 billion a year incorporated into the price of coal, making it artificially cheap, and strongly skewing U.S. energy markets in favor of fossil fuels. Incorporate all the health and environmental “externalities” associated with fossil fuels, while taking away the enormous subsidies they receive from taxpayers, and it’s a totally different story — one in which clean energy would win by a wide margin.

Just in case you wanted even more evidence along these lines, a new study is out from researchers at MIT which finds that policies aimed at cutting fossil-fuel pollution can more than pay for themselves.

Lower rates of asthma and other health problems are frequently cited as benefits of policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions from sources like power plants and vehicles, because these policies also lead to reductions in other harmful types of air pollution.

But just how large are the health benefits of cleaner air in comparison to the costs of reducing carbon emissions? MIT researchers looked at three policies achieving the same reductions in the United States, and found that the savings on health care spending and other costs related to illness can be big — in some cases, more than 10 times the cost of policy implementation.

…The researchers found that savings from avoided health problems could recoup 26 percent of the cost to implement a transportation policy, but up to to 10.5 times the cost of implementing a cap-and-trade program…Savings from health benefits dwarf the estimated $14 billion cost of a cap-and-trade program…The price tag of a clean energy standard fell between the costs of the two other policies, with associated health benefits just edging out costs, at $247 billion versus $208 billion.

In sum, by implementing smart policies to cut CO2 emissions, not only do policymakers help head off disastrous global warming, they also reduce other forms of pollution in the process, saving enormous amounts of money on health care costs. How much money? Enough, depending on the policy, to more than pay for the policy’s implementation. Who ever said you can’t get something for nothing? In this case, you actually get MORE than that — cleaner air and water, a habitable planet for future generations, sharply lower health problems and associated healthcare costs, as well as lower energy bills for consumers and a more competitive country in the world economy. If that’s not a “win-win-win” situation, it’s hard to know what is.

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (8/25/14)

Posted By Lowell F. on August 25th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (8/25/14).

  1. According to the L.A. Times: ”Californians who want to put solar panels on their roofs could benefit from a state bill headed to the governor’s desk. The Legislature on Thursday passed the Solar Permitting Efficiency Act, which promises to streamline the solar permitting process throughout California. Industry officials say that could save each customer $1,000 or more on the cost of installing solar panels.”
  2. NBC News reports, “A construction boom of pipelines carrying explosive oil and natural gas from “fracking” fields to market — pipes that are bigger and more dangerous than their predecessors -– poses a safety threat in rural areas, where they sometimes run within feet or yards of homes with little or no safety oversight, an NBC News investigation has found.”
  3. According to the San Jose Mercury News: “A proposal to build one of the world’s largest solar farms in a rural area south of Silicon Valley has cleared one of its final hurdles after five years of planning and environmental debate. But whether the 247-megawatt facility proposed for Panoche Valley, a vast expanse of rangeland 50 miles south of Hollister, is ever built will depend on it securing final environmental permits and new investors to bankroll construction.”
  4. Climate Progress reports, “Within a few decades, large-scale, centralized electricity generation from fossil fuels could be a thing of the past in Europe.”
  5. At Greentech Media, Jigar Shah argues that Bill Gates is “wrong on renewable energy.”
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Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (8/22/14)

Posted By Lowell F. on August 22nd, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (8/22/14).

  1. The Hill reports, “Ads blanketing the Washington, D.C. metro system meant to tout Canada’s image, and boost support for the Keystone XL oil pipeline among policymakers, aren’t working, according to a survey.”
  2. On the Greentech Media “Energy Gang” podcast, Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute explains that “As Economists Argue, Renewables Keep Getting Cheaper.”
  3. Climate Progress reports: “At least 10 percent of the contents of fracking fluid injected into the earth is toxic. For another third we have no idea. And that’s only from the list of chemicals the fracking industry provided voluntarily. That’s according to an analysis by William Stringfellow of Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, reported in Chemistry World.”
  4. According to Gigaom: “It’s been quite awhile since we’ve heard anything from battery startup Sakti3. The seven-year-old University of Michigan spin-out has been heads down working on a high performance “solid-state” lithium ion battery and on Wednesday announced that it’s produced a battery that can double the range of an electric car (like a Tesla Model S) or double the usage time of a gadget like a wearable device.”
  5. Renewable Energy World reports, “ABB Ltd. said a power-cable technology that allows offshore wind farms to transmit more than twice the energy of current set-ups will boost orders at the company’s power systems division in coming years.”
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Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (8/21/14)

Posted By Lowell F. on August 21st, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (8/21/14).

  1. The Wall Street Journal reports: “India’s plans for setting up the world’s largest solar power station has been hit by political wrangling over whether it can use the proposed land that is home to migratory birds and meant for salt production. The project, forecast to cost $4 billion over seven years, was to be along the banks of India’s largest salt lake in the northwestern state of Rajasthan and billed as a showpiece for India’s solar ambitions.”
  2. According to Media Matters: “A recent study from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) claims that smog regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will cost the economy $270 billion. But the regulations, necessary to alleviate the unsafe smog pollution currently experienced by 140 million Americans, will likely achieve net benefits by reducing costs associated with medical expenses and premature deaths, while experts have said the NAM study uses “fraudulent” claims and is ‘not based in economic reality.’”
  3. RenewEconomy reports, “Leading investment bank UBS says the payback time for unsubsidised investment in electric vehicles plus rooftop solar plus battery storage will be as low as 6-8 years by 2020 – triggering a massive revolution in the energy industry.”
  4. According to Midwest Energy News, “A closely watched battle over utility policy in Wisconsin could determine the fate of solar development throughout the region, advocates say.”
  5. The News & Observer reports: “The Coal Ash Management Act that won final approval by the Republican-led General Assembly Wednesday is better than the Republicans’ previous approach to leaking coal ash pits. Namely, ‘Let’s adjourn and do nothing.’”
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