Top energy and climate stories for April 9

[Note to readers:  Many of you helpfully post links to stories you think other readers (and I) should see.  I’d like you to try to post them in the comments section of this post, which should appear every weekday.  That way, readers will know where to look for the key stories of the day.  You might also want to post a one or two line summary.]

Top Stories
E&E Daily (Subs. Req’d)
SunPower, Xcel Energy mull massive Colo. plant

Despite the recession the solar industry continues to grow. In southern Colorado, SunPower Corp. has started the ball rolling for the construction of a 17-megawatt solar PV plant, second-largest of its kind in North America:

SunPower Corp. is planning to build a 17-megawatt solar photovoltaic array in southern Colorado….  Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy Inc. would buy all of its output over 10 years….

[Colorado’s] newly augmented power portfolio standard requires Xcel and other large utilities to derive 20 percent of their sales from renewable resources by 2020; 4 percent of the electricity sold must come from solar PV or concentrated solar power projects.

Xcel’s current solar portfolio consists of about 32 megawatts….  Xcel has bids out for at about 200 megawatts of concentrated solar power generation….  SunPower aims to complete construction of a 25-megawatt PV array in DeSoto County, Fla., by the end of the year.

(See also “First Energy Department loan guarantee goes to “¦ a solar manufacturer.”)

Grid spies planted software to disrupt transmission system
(also reported by BBC: Spies ‘infiltrate US power grid’)

“Chinese and Russian cyberspies have been tampering with the U.S. electric grid and have left behind software programs capable of disrupting the entire system, according to current and former national security officials.”

In an effort to position a potentially crippling payload without the dangers of an international incident, both China and Russia have placed malicious programs in the United States electrical grid. The purposes of these programs are the disruption and collapse of the electrical grid.  While the grid is currently divided and regionalized, the plans to construct a national smart grid raise questions of national security.

Legislation and Policy

E&E Daily (Subs. Req’d)
Treasury sees itself shaping emission-auction scheme

“The Treasury Department’s new energy and environment office will play a critical role in designing the auction scheme for federal greenhouse gas emission allowances in any climate regulation, according to the office’s chief.”

The Treasury Department’s announcement raises questions of agency competition for emission-auction schemes after yesterday’s declaration by Steven Chu that the DOE would play a “deep role” in crafting formulating the same emission-auction policy.

Washington Post
Science Chief Discusses Climate Strategy

“The Obama administration might agree to auction only a portion of the emissions allowances granted at first under a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas pollution, White House science adviser John P. Holdren said yesterday, a move that would please electric utilities and manufacturers but could anger environmentalists.”

New York Times
Renewables Fever Sweeps State Legislatures

“A number of states have seen a spurt of legislative activity on renewable energy “” and many seem poised to take maximum advantage of the clean-energy provisions of the federal stimulus package.”

In Areas Fueled by Coal, Climate Bill Sends Chill

“From the wheat fields of the north-central region to Kansas City’s necklace of industrial parks to the brick street fronts of St. Louis, Missouri’s reliance on cheap electricity is deeply ingrained.

But few pay attention to the origin of their little-noticed savings: 21 coal-fired power plants that emit more than 75 million tons of carbon dioxide annually and generate 80 percent of Missouri’s electricity. Even residents who endorse wind and solar energy have grown accustomed to the benefits of state policies that favor coal by putting a premium on low-cost electricity. So the idea of federal climate legislation that could increase electricity bills by putting a price on emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide is unsettling.”

At U.N. Talks on Climate, Plans by U.S. Raise Qualms

“On Wednesday, [Todd] Stern’s team offered the first broad hints of a new international climate policy for the United States, noting that more details would be submitted in a proposal to the United Nations later this month. But even in its broadest brush strokes, the American proposal differs significantly from other plans to curb carbon dioxide emissions enacted by the United Nations and the European Union.

The Obama administration’s plan would require all countries, including developing nations like China and India, to curb greenhouse gas emissions, said Jonathan Pershing, the deputy special envoy for climate change, at a news conference. The plan’s main focus is on long-range goals “” as distant as 2050 “” for greenhouse gas reduction.”

Shell Oil President on Cap-and-Trade

“Marvin Odum, the president of Shell Oil, appeared on [C-Span’s Washington Journal yesterday] morning, where he discussed a variety of topics “” including the carbon tax vs. cap-and-trade question.”

E&E Daily (Subs. Req’d)
EPRI picked to write ‘smart grid’ road map

“The nonprofit research group funded by the electric utility industry has been picked by a Commerce Department agency to write plans for standardizing components of the ‘smart grid.'”

The California based research group has received a $1.3 million contract from the Commerce Department to “identify priorities for streamlining the nation’s electric grid system.” Creating a smart grid is an essential step to lessening the United State’s dependence on foreign oil.

New York Times
Turning Up the Heat on Outdoor Heaters

Patio heaters, which critics say use unnecessary energy and emit gratuitous carbon dioxide, have become a hot issue among some European politicians and promoters of conservation. Several members of the European Parliament have called for measures that could lead to a possible ban on the devices.

Solar-powered cooker wins $75,000 climate prize

A $6 cardboard box that uses solar power to cook food, sterilize water and could help 3 billion poor people cut greenhouse gases, has won a $75,000 prize for ideas to fight global warming.

The ‘Kyoto Box,’ named after the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol that seeks to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, is aimed at billions of people who use firewood to cook.

Climate Change

The Economist
Sin aqua non

Local water shortages are multiplying. Australia has suffered a decade-long drought. Brazil and South Africa, which depend on hydroelectric power, have suffered repeated brownouts because there is not enough water to drive the turbines properly. So much has been pumped out of the rivers that feed the Aral Sea in Central Asia that it collapsed in the 1980s and has barely begun to recover.

Yet local shortages, caused by individual acts of mismanagement or regional problems, are one thing. A global water crisis, which impinges on supplies of food and other goods, or affects rivers and lakes everywhere, is quite another.

LA Times
What will global warming look like? Scientists point to Australia

Climate scientists say Australia — beset by prolonged drought and deadly bush fires in the south, monsoon flooding and mosquito-borne fevers in the north, widespread wildlife decline, economic collapse in agriculture and killer heat waves — epitomizes the ‘accelerated climate crisis’ that global warming models have forecast.

Science Daily
Aerosols May Drive A Significant Portion Of Arctic Warming

Though greenhouse gases are invariably at the center of discussions about global climate change, new NASA research suggests that much of the atmospheric warming observed in the Arctic since 1976 may be due to changes in tiny airborne particles called aerosols.

Retreat of Andean Glaciers Foretells Global Water Woes

Bolivia accounts for a tiny fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions. But it will soon be paying a disproportionately high price for a major consequence of global warming: the rapid loss of glaciers and a subsequent decline in vital water supplies.

Complied by Carlin Rosengarten and Max Luken

14 Responses to Top energy and climate stories for April 9

  1. paulm says:

    Joe, can these posts have their own category…

    [JR: Seems a bit odd to give them their own category since they do not strike me as having permanent interest and thus I can’t see why somebody would search back, say, a month. And, of course, they can use the archive feature for that.]

  2. SecularAnimist says:

    Here’s one:

    Interior secretary: Wind could replace coal power
    by Erik Palm


    “The idea that wind energy has the potential to replace most of our coal-burning power today is a very real possibility,” he said. “It is not technology that is pie-in-the sky; it is here and now,” Salazar said, according to an AP report, at a meeting in Atlantic City, N.J., Monday.


    At the Atlantic City forum, he presented (PDF) estimates from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that said wind has a gross resource of 463 gigawatts of power in the mid-Atlantic area alone. The current U.S. total production of electricity from coal is 366 gigawatts, according to the Energy Information Administration.


    However, a large portion of the potential wind power is located out in deep waters. The laboratory assumes that about 40 percent of wind potential could actually be developed, totaling 185 gigawatts, or enough to power about 53.3 million average U.S. homes.

    It’s encouraging to hear from a top federal official who recognizes the huge potential of wind power. The commercially exploitable wind energy resources of the USA are sufficient to provide more electricity than the entire country uses.

    On the other hand, the article includes comments from the American Coal Council, who surprisingly think the Secretary is “too optimistic” about wind power, and the American Petroleum Council, who simply assert that “green energy” cannot possibly meet our needs and that rather than building offshore wind turbines we should build offshore oil drilling rigs.

  3. Reply says:


    Wind is certainly competitive with Coal on a price per kilowatt basis. Unfortunately, the problem is location. Coal plants can be plopped down anywhere in the country, wind turbines rely off naturally high wind corridors. While the United States is certainly blessed with massive wind resources, the transmission grid does not exist to move that power into the cities. Once the grid has been built, we will certainly see wind as the most competitive energy on the market- even without climate legislation.

  4. paulm says:

    Nulear accedent here we come.

    Panic mode. No future planning results in degraded safety standards.

  5. Marie says:

    Wow! That LA Times article on Australia as a harbinger really merits the term “stunner.” I hope the author wins a Pulitzer. This is a must read! Can you add a digg link to the links you show?

  6. David B. Benson says:

    The articles about infiltration into grid software strikes me as thoroughly overdone; somebody having nightmares and telling about it. I’m in a position to know something of what NERC, DoE, DoHS and even DoT are in the process of doing to enhance grid security. I’ll just say they are way ahead of any potential “bad guys”.

    But most important is the fact that there are grid controllers on duty 24/7. Those guys have plenty of training and experience to deal with outages, planned and unplanned. I think we are in good hands with software and hardware which is entirely off-internet and on private networks; that makes it very difficult for any pot3ential intruder. If anything, I’d say that the possiblity of an insider caqusing trouble is much higher, but even then the gris researchers are well on top of it.

    Tempest in a teapot, methinks.

  7. Steve H says:


    My hunch is that the hacker info was released due to the settling of fines for pennies on the dollar for those power generators that failed to meet federal security standards. In other words, trying to give the utilities a little push from scared customers.

  8. David B. Benson says:

    Steve H — Could be. I’m not at all sure what, if any, federal security standards there are for control software.

  9. Sasparilla says:

    The LA times is back with another good one today (not as good as the Australia piece, but for US newpaper reporting its pretty good).,0,2416858.story

    It misses the opportunity to discuss what the heat would do to corn to hinder it (probably drying the tassles so the pollen won’t make it in to the kernel) and it misses the opportunity to discuss the drying effect but is a good article – thank goodness for the LA Times here in the US.

  10. Sasparilla says:

    Sorry for the double post – I forgot to add the title of the new LA Times piece – Global warming endangers U.S. corn production, study says

  11. ecostew says:

    Joe – would you prefer that we post sites of interest after your post?

  12. David B. Benson says:

    “New Link Between The Evolution Of Complex Life Forms On Earth And Nickel And Methane Gas”:

    It seems that methanogens are nickel limited, which suggests finding a way to relieve this in anaerobic digesters to produce more methane and less acid gas.

    And of course every village, town and city should use anaerobic digestion on municiple waste streams IMO.

  13. Doug Gibson says:

    I hadn’t seen any mention of this – the Safe Markets Development Act, which is apparently the Blue Dog approach to cap and trade. Hard to tell if it’s good, bad, or neutral. (Sorry about the long URL, but for some reason I’m getting a “not found” error for Rep. Cooper’s site. This is the Google cache.)