Energy and Global Warming News for March 18th: China squeezes U.S. firms out of its massive wind-power market; Major concentrated solar project in Mojave moves ahead
"Energy and Global Warming News for March 18th: China squeezes U.S. firms out of its massive wind-power market; Major concentrated solar project in Mojave moves ahead"
U.S. companies are getting squeezed out of the big Chinese wind-power market even as Dallas investors are bringing Chinese firms here via a big wind farm in Texas, according to a new industry report.
“They’ve used every measure you could possibly think of to enhance production of renewable energy equipment in China,” said report author Alan Wolff of the trade law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk won a pledge from the Chinese last fall to drop rules giving preference to Chinese makers of wind-power equipment. But Kirk’s office hasn’t seen any evidence that the pledge has been carried out, said spokeswoman Carol Guthrie.
Meanwhile, Chinese manufacturers are entering the U.S. wind market under a joint venture led by Dallas investor Cappy McGarr.
McGarr’s U.S. Renewable Energy Group, with Cielo Wind Power LP of Austin and China’s Shenyang Power Group, is planning a $1.5 billion, 600-megawatt wind farm on 36,000 acres in West Texas.
After two years of environmental review, state regulators in California have given the nod to a large new solar installation planned for the Mojave Desert.
California regulators on Wednesday recommended that the state’s first new big solar power plant in nearly two decades be approved after a two-and-half-year review of its environmental impact on the Mojave Desert.
The recommendation by staff members of the California Energy Commission “” which still must be accepted by the commission board “” comes three weeks after the federal Department of Energy offered the project’s builder, BrightSource Energy, a $1.37 billion loan guarantee to construct the 392-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.
The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity favor solar energy projects, but objected to building the BrightSource power plant in the Ivanpah Valley of Southern California, saying it would harm rare plants and animals like the desert tortoise.
Other environmentalists argued that the project, which features thousands of mirrors that focus the sun on 459-foot-tall towers, would mar the visual beauty of the desert.
For years, many of China’s best and brightest left for the United States, where high-tech industry was more cutting-edge. But Mark R. Pinto is moving in the opposite direction.
Mr. Pinto is the first chief technology officer of a major American tech company to move to China. The company, Applied Materials, is one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent firms. It supplied equipment used to perfect the first computer chips. Today, it is the world’s biggest supplier of the equipment used to make semiconductors, solar panels and flat-panel displays.
In addition to moving Mr. Pinto and his family to Beijing in January, Applied Materials, whose headquarters are in Santa Clara, Calif., has just built its newest and largest research labs here. Last week, it even held its annual shareholders’ meeting in Xi’an.
It is hardly alone. Companies “” and their engineers “” are being drawn here more and more as China develops a high-tech economy that increasingly competes directly with the United States.
Government negotiators are already writing off chances for a global treaty to fight climate change, nine months before the annual talks begin in Cancun, Mexico.
Kunihiko Shimada, principal international negotiator at the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, said yesterday a deal this year is “almost impossible.” Jos Delbeke, who spearheads European Union climate policy at the European Commission, ruled out a “comprehensive legal agreement” in 2010.
“We’re planning to button up our efforts somewhere I hope next week,” Senator John Kerry told reporters after meeting with a coalition that represents automakers, forestry and paper companies, Big Oil, steel, mining, electricity and others.
Kerry is working with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and independent Senator Joseph Lieberman on a bill to require U.S. industry to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases associated with global warming.
Indicating there was still work to be done, Kerry said, “We’re trying to build support as we develop (bill) language.”
Bruce Josten, an executive vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, left Wednesday’s meeting with the three senators and told reporters: “They’re being very constructive; they’re trying to figure out how to make this work for the American economy.”
General Electric Co. Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt wants Barack Obama to “sell hard” in Indonesia as he extols U.S. expertise in industries such as clean energy. He’ll have to work fast — Premier Wen Jiabao will make China’s sales pitch in Jakarta next month.
President Obama’s trip to his childhood home, already delayed once and currently scheduled for March 23-25, is key to a pledge to boost U.S. exports and “lead the global economy” in providing alternatives to fossil fuels. Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, which Immelt included last week among nations that may provide the growth “surprise” of the next decade, has the world’s largest geothermal reserves.
Winning orders for plants that harness the earth’s heat to produce electricity is a test of the U.S.’s ability to compete with China for exports in a region where its investments lag the European Union and Japan. China profited from Indonesia’s earlier energy needs, supplying coal-fired plants in the last decade, said Ravi Krishnaswamy, Singapore-based Asia-Pacific director for Frost & Sullivan, an energy consultancy.
The American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s biggest trade group, said strong industry bidding in Wednesday’s latest Gulf of Mexico lease sale shows that the Obama administration should make more areas available for offshore oil-and-gas drilling.
The Interior Department attracted over $949 million in high bids in the sale, which covered tracts in a 2.4 million acre region of federal waters off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
“The U.S. government could replicate this success by providing leasing opportunities in unexplored areas of the Outer Continental Shelf – like offshore Virginia, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off Alaska,” said API President Jack Gerard in a statement Wednesday, calling it a way to bring in new revenues and create jobs.
If bundled with the right incentives, comprehensive climate and energy legislation will generate as many as 150,000 jobs in the American auto sector by 2020, according to a study released Tuesday.
This report “tracks a trend where more efficiency means more jobs,” said Bracken Hendricks, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, which commissioned the study along with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the United Auto Workers. “More efficiency means more investment in skilled labor, and in high-quality manufactured content, and that directly translates to jobs.”
“The move to greater fuel economy means greater labor content per vehicle and higher employment across the fleet,” the report states. “This will include new investment in a host of incremental improvements to conventional gasoline powered internal combustion engines, from new controls for valves and timing, to variable speed transmissions and advanced electronics. It will also include entirely new systems like hybrid drive trains and advanced diesel engines.”
In the summer of 2008, Wyoming’s governor, Dave Freudenthal, went to California for meetings with state officials and utility executives. What he brought was, quite literally, a burning question.
California was in the throes of putting together the nation’s first cap on greenhouse gases, and it appeared that if a Democrat were elected president, there might soon be a federal law, as well. At stake was Wyoming’s biggest industry — coal production. Wyoming lawmakers worried that California would lead the nation to impose a ban on imports of out-of-state electricity if it were produced by coal-fired power plants.
For both states, these are meat-and-potatoes questions. Wyoming is, by far, the nation’s biggest coal producer. California is the second-largest electricity market in the United States. Freudenthal took the issue one step further: Were there any circumstances under which California regulators and utilities would consider power produced by Wyoming coal to be “green” enough to sell for premium prices?
The governor, a Democrat, and Wyoming state Rep. Thomas Lubnau II, a Republican, had both been impressed by the exploits of Anadarko Petroleum Corp., a Texas-based oil exploration company that had rejuvenated a century-old Wyoming oil field by injecting carbon dioxide into the formation. The company was touting its new production as “green oil,” because it had taken millions of tons of man-made carbon dioxide being vented into the atmosphere and successfully injected it underground to produce more oil.
Would California recognize “green coal”? Moreover, if engineers in Wyoming figured out a way to separate and bury most of the CO2 emissions resulting from generating electricity by burning coal, could the electricity fetch the high prices being paid by California utilities for wind and solar energy?
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is officially opposed to Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) effort to block EPA from regulating greenhouse gases through a congressional resolution of disapproval.
The Alliance, which includes 11 major carmakers, worries the resolution to overturn EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare would derail an agreement reached with the Obama administration on higher fuel efficiency standards. The so-called endangerment finding is the legal underpinning of EPA’s efforts to regulate carbon emissions.
Renewable energy investment may rise by 23 percent this year as government stimulus funds mainly in the U.S. and Europe are spent wind turbines and solar panels.
Spending may rise to between $175 billion and $200 billion this year from $162 billion in 2009, said Bloomberg New Energy Finance Chief Executive Officer Michael Liebreich today.