Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (11/17/14)

November 17th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (11/17/14).

  1. Bloomberg reports: “Buying a solar rooftop in Wisconsin will become a lot less affordable under fees and utility rate changes approved today for a Wisconsin Energy Corp. (WEC) unit. State regulators today approved fees on any home or business that installs solar in the Milwaukee-based utility’s service area, said Nathan Conrad, a spokesman for the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.”
  2. According to DeSmogBlog, “A new report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has found that, through their Walton Family Foundation, the Waltons have given $4.5 million dollars to groups like the American Enterprise Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and Americans for Prosperity—groups that are attacking renewable energy policies at the state level and, specifically, pushing for fees on rooftop solar installations.”
  3. Politico reports: “Republican oil mogul Harold Hamm says Congress is wasting its time debating the Keystone XL pipeline. ‘It’s not relevant at all in my opinion. And here we are making it relevant now? Forget it,’ the billionaire CEO of Oklahoma-based Continental Resources told POLITICO in an interview Friday, just before the House passed a bill aimed at approving the pipeline.
  4. The Daily Beast writes, “The Pipeline From Hell: There’s No Good Reason to Build Keystone XL.”
  5. Shauna Theel writes at The Energy Collective, “[The] U.S. and China reached a historic agreement to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change, providing a strong signal for investors that wind energy, among other clean electric power solutions, is a smart economic decision.”

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (11/14/14)

November 14th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (11/14/14).

  1. Renewable Energy World reports, “The global market for grid-connected residential photovoltaic (PV) solar installations coupled with energy storage is predicted to grow tenfold to reach more than 900 megawatts (MW) in 2018, up from just 90 MW in 2014, according to analysis from IHS.”
  2. According to RenewEconomy, “The head of one of the world’s leading solar PV manufacturers and developers, SunPower’s Tom Werner, predicts that solar will be a $US5 trillion industry within 20 years, and represents one of the greatest ever opportunities in the history of markets.”
  3. Reuters reports, “President Barack Obama said on Friday his position on the Keystone XL oil pipeline has not changed, as the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives prepared to vote to approve the project to transport oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.”
  4. According to Bloomberg, “Oil prices could slide from a four-year low in the coming months as the market enters a period of weaker demand, increasing pressure on OPEC to reduce production, the International Energy Agency said.”
  5. The Guardian reports, “Mining giant Glencore will shut down its Australian coal operations for three weeks due to an oversupply of the commodity.”

Will Media Now Admit They Were Wrong on “Solyndra Scandal,” DOE Clean Energy Loan Program?

November 13th, 2014

How can any of us forget the breathless media coverage over the supposedly failed Department of Energy renewable energy loan program and the non-scandal “Solyndra scandal?” For instance, Media Matters reminds us:

The media’s coverage of the DOE’s loan program over the past few years has been overwhelmingly negativeand often egregiously misinformed. Coverage frequently focused on Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer that received a $535 million federal loan guarantee before going bankrupt in 2011, suggesting the company’s fate was representative of the program’s success as a whole.

The Washington Post gave particularly outsized coverage to the Solyndra bankruptcy, devoting an entire section of its website to the so-called “Solyndra Scandal.”…

At CBS News, then-correspondent Sharyl Attkisson issued a report on Solyndra that was rife with factual errors. The report helped earn Attkisson an award from Accuracy In Media, a conservative organizationknown for pushing anti-gay misinformation and bizarre conspiracy theories. CBS subsequently pulledAttkisson from a planned appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to accept the award.

Fox News demonized DOE loan programs at every turn, criticizing even companies who received no funds at all from the guarantee program.

Well, now it turns out that all of this was not just slightly erroneous, but wildly false. In fact, it turns out that DOE has “loaned $34.2 billion to a variety of businesses, under a program designed to speed up development of clean-energy technology,” while collecting enough in interest payments to offset the miniscule (2.28 percent) default rate, leaving the program with an overall surplus to taxpayers of $30 million.  Which means that the DOE loan program basically helped jump start the U.S. cleantech industry (e.g., Media Matters points to “DOE’s role in the success of the electric car company Tesla Motors,” which actually “has a higher success rate than venture capitalists”) at a net profit to taxpayers.

Yet, despite this huge success story, in much of the media all we’ve heard has been “scandal,” “failure,” “picking winners and losers,” and other nonsensical, fossil fuel industry talking points.  Now that the media’s entire narrative has unraveled, the question is, to quote Media Matters,  whether “after years of breathless negative coverage…these media outlets will provide a more prominent a platform to inform media consumers of evidence that counters their previous narrative?” Personally, I’m not holding my breath.

UPDATE: Actually, make that a $5-$6 billion profit off the DOE loan program over the next 20-25 years.

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (11/13/14)

November 13th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (11/13/14).

  1. NPR reports: “A joint investigation by NPR and Mine Safety and Health News found that thousands of mine operators fail to pay safety penalties, even as they continue to manage dangerous — and sometimes deadly — mining operations. Most unpaid penalties are between two and 10 years overdue; some go back two decades. And federal regulators seem unable or unwilling to make mine owners pay.”
  2. According to Greentech Media: “The world’s biggest battery is coming to California. Last week, Southern California Edison (SCE) revealed the winners of a massive 250-megawatt energy storage procurement round, one that could set new standards for incorporating distributed and customer-owned energy assets into grid operations. The procurement represents a potential turning point for utilities.”
  3. The San Francisco Chronicle reports, “Another day, another ‘historic’ agreement reached between the United States and China, this one of considerable interest to the Bay Area’s solar power industry.”
  4. According to the Wall Street Journal, “White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that the president would veto a Keystone approval bill, saying the president takes a ‘dim view’ of legislation overriding the State Department’s review process.”
  5. Reuters reports, “The controversial government program that funded failed solar company Solyndra, and became a lighting rod in the 2012 presidential election, is officially in the black.”

IEA: Fossil Fuels Get $550 Billion/Year in Subsidies, 4x More than Clean Energy

November 12th, 2014

Need any more evidence that fossil fuels are heavily subsidized, putting clean energy at a competitive disadvantage due to governments tilting the playing field heavily in favor of coal, oil, and natural gas?  Here you go.

Fossil fuels are reaping $550 billion a year in subsidies and holding back investment in cleaner forms of energy, the International Energy Agency said.

Oil, coal and gas received more than four times the $120 billion paid out in incentives for renewables including wind, solar and biofuels, the Paris-based institution said today in its annual World Energy Outlook.

Next time you hear a cleantech basher or fossil fuel flack talking about how government shouldn’t “pick winners and losers,” point them right here.