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

Report says China is squeezing U.S. firms out of its massive wind-power market

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.


Major California Solar Project Moves Ahead

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.

China Drawing High-Tech Research From U.S.

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.

Cancun Climate Talks Get Dim Prognosis Nine Months Before Start

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.

Deal nearing on Senate climate bill: lawmaker

“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.”

GE Tells Obama ‘Sell Hard’ in Indonesia With China in Pursuit

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.

API uses Gulf of Mexico lease sale to push wider drilling

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.

Could Climate Bill Boost Auto Workers?

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.”

Wyo.’s Crash Program to Develop ‘Green’ Coal

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?

Auto alliance opposes Murkowski on EPA greenhouse gas regs

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 Reach $200 Billion in 2010

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.

3 Responses to 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

  1. paulm says:

    Some thing to remind us what things are going to be like frequently and soon…

    A Tech-Filled Life, Without Power

    I live in Connecticut, one of several states that were ripped last weekend by incredibly violent windstorms. Everywhere you look, you see the carcasses of huge, handsome old trees, blown over, their root masses ripped right from the ground.

    As a result of Treemageddon, the power lines all over the tri-state area are a tangled mess. This week-long thing is, I’m told, a first since the 1930’s or so.

  2. mike roddy says:

    CEC staff approval for the Brightsource Ivanpah solar thermal plant is really good news, along with DOE’s decision to guarantee funding. At one time Brightsource had abandoned the site out of frustration with delays and pressure from environmentalists, and I’m glad the project got resurrected.

    There are tortoises all through the Mojave, and they are physically relocated for development projects. The Ivanpah region, at least toward the western side, is low elevation desert, and not particularly diverse or fecund. It did harbor plants and wildlife, and there are more barren sites in the Mojave, but this compromise was badly needed for symbolic and practical reasons. 393 Mgw will only require about 2,000 acres, and there are corridors to the millions of acres of desert in the vicinity.

    It’s not as easy to find a feasible site for solar as environmental NGO’s think. Feasibility requires proper zoning and title, decent groundwater, proximity to large power lines, road access, and favorable insolation and wind conditions (high wind zones mean oversized heliostat footings). The perfect site for environmentalists, hardpan, may not meet these critical requirements. The first few large solar projects need to pencil out well in order to enable others to follow.

    Brightsource is a technically advanced and well managed company. I wish them great success at Ivanpah.

  3. prokaryote says:

    Opening Remarks at Security Council Meeting on Climate Change, 17 March 2010, the Kremlin, Moscow

    [President of Russia Dmitriy Medvedev] Colleagues, the Security Council is meeting today to examine the whole range of issues related to the environmental, economic and social consequences of global climate change. Of course, timely evaluation and suitable responses need to be one of our national priorities.

    The global community has attempted on a number of occasions to tackle this problem over recent years, but without much visible impact so far. The Copenhagen Climate Change Conference failed to produce results. The prospects for an international agreement on climate change are still not clear, although everyone continues to work, of course. As a responsible country, we however remain committed to our chosen strategy, namely, developing an energy- efficient economy, modern ‘green’ technology, and a modern energy sector, thus reducing hydrocarbon emissions into the atmosphere. No matter how the situation develops it is in Russia’s environmental and economic interests to pursue this strategy. This is without question an issue concerning our national security, and this is why we are examining this matter here today.

    Russia’s Climate Doctrine, which was approved at the end of last year, is based on this same strategy. Its implementation involves carrying out state programmes to reduce the human impact on the atmosphere and also adapt it to the changes taking place in the world, including in the Arctic and in our northern latitudes.

    In this context, I want the Government to approve a package of measures for implementing the [Climate] Doctrine by 1 October 2010. This includes drafting the necessary laws and regulations. I hereby issue this instruction to the Government.

    We also need to establish new and effective financial and institutional mechanisms, and come up with incentives for companies to modernize their technology, a system of incentives for the companies that are modernizing and achieving substantial results. Perhaps we also need to adjust building and technical regulations to take into account the current or forecast effects of climate change, though on this matter we need to proceed very carefully, because not all forecasts turn out to be correct, frankly speaking, and so we need to follow developments very closely. Whatever the case, we will need to make thorough checks of civil and military infrastructure located in regions with the most complicated climatic conditions, and if necessary, take measures to make them more reliable in the context of climate change. In any circumstances, according to the evaluations already made, deterioration of the permafrost in the north of Western Siberia and also in the northeast of European Russia could cause potential damage to buildings and infrastructure. We need to keep this in mind even though we have just gone through a winter seldom seen over these last years, but typical of the climate traditional for our part of the world.

    It is extremely important for us to build up modern scientific research and forecasting capability. We are still quite a long way behind most developed countries in monitoring and forecasting climate change. I especially want to bring to your attention that we are still unable to carry out ongoing meteorological study of the Arctic region, which is absolutely crucial for understanding the causes and consequences of climate change. The Government has a deadline of 1 June 2010 for proposing steps for the development of the Arktika multipurpose space system and establishing meteorological and climate monitoring subsystems.