25 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for August 3rd: Fossil fuel subsidies are 12 times that of renewables; Chamber goes after climate dissenters in its ranks; Ten fights on global warming now that Senate cops out
Global subsidies for fossil fuels dwarf support given to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power and biofuels, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.
Governments last year gave $43 billion to $46 billion of support to renewable energy through tax credits, guaranteed electricity prices known as feed-in tariffs and alternative energy credits, the London-based research group said today in a statement. That compares with the $557 billion that the International Energy Agency last month said was spent to subsidize fossil fuels in 2008.
“One of the reasons the clean energy sector is starved of funding is because mainstream investors worry that renewable energy only works with direct government support,” said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of New Energy Finance. “This analysis shows that the global direct subsidy for fossil fuels is around ten times the subsidy for renewables.”
Countries from the U.S. and Germany to Brazil and China are trying to boost power derived from crops, the wind and the sun in order to lower emissions of greenhouse gases while increasing the security of energy supplies. The Group of 20 nations a month ago renewed a commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies “over the medium term.” No target date was set.
The single most expensive clean energy subsidy last year was Germany’s feed-in tariff, which cost ratepayers $9.6 billion, New Energy Finance said. Across Europe, such tariffs amounted to $19.5 billion.
The U.S. in 2009 provided the most clean energy subsidies, at $18.2 billion, according to New Energy Finance. China provided about $2 billion of support, a “deceptive” figure because the country’s state-owned banks also provide “much crucial support” through low-interest loans, the group said.
So far this year, the state-controlled China Development Bank has extended $24 billion in loans to Yingli Green Energy Holding Co., Trina Solar Ltd., Suntech Power Holdings Co., Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. and Solarfun Power Holdings Co.
A new split over climate policy is brewing within the ranks of the US Chamber of Commerce as a breakaway group of local chambers is getting ready to publicly split with the business lobby’s hardline stance against climate legislation. The new climate coalition, known as the Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy (CICE), will press Congress to take stronger action on climate and energy issues. It has already signed up about a dozen chambers and will officially launch later this year.
The US Chamber is already working behind the scenes to discredit the new group. After it caught wind of the effort last month, it fired off a letter to local chamber leaders, discouraging them from joining CICE, which it claimed was “established by the Natural Resources Defense Council.” The letter, written by US Chamber board member Winthrop Hallett, the president of Alabama’s Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, states that the new group’s “indirect purpose appears to be undermining the U.S. Chamber’s and the business community’s leadership on” climate issues.
Legislation to explicitly fight global warming is dead — weakened and then killed in the Senate. Environmental groups fought hard to push the bill. A majority of Americans and a majority of senators wanted to do something serious. Not this year. Sen. Harry Reid announced last week that he could not find 60 votes for what had already become a weak, compromised piece of legislation, so no vote would be held. Oil and gas companies and their friends in the Senate- all the Republicans and a number of key Democrats such as Sen. Rockefeller of West Virginia, Sen. Lincoln of Arkansas, and Sen. Conrad of North Dakota — got their wish. No action on global warming.
We know the planet is heating rapidly and that the consequences, already visible, will get much worse for every year we postpone action to slow, and then radically reduce, greenhouse gas emissions. At CREDO, we are enthusiastic proponents of tough action on global warming but had decidedly mixed feelings about all the compromises, backroom deals, special incentives, and loopholes that worked their way into the Kerry-Lieberman attempt to get to 60 votes.
President Obama’s weekly address once again focused on helping the nation’s economy; this week the President focuses on smart investments in small businesses, clean energy, and the middle class.
President Obama laid out his economic plan in this weekend’s weekly address. The plan calls for smart investments in three areas: small businesses, the clean energy industry, and the middle class. Although Obama is hopeful about his economic plan he cautions Americans to not expect instant results.
“Now, I can’t tell you that this plan will bring back all the jobs we lost and restore our economy to full strength overnight. The truth is, it took nearly a decade of failed economic policies to create this mess, and it will take years to fully repair the damage. But I am confident that we are finally headed in the right direction. We are moving forward. And what we can’t afford right now is to go back to the same ideas that created this mess in the first place.”
A major Midwest utility, Ameren, said Monday that it had created a new subsidiary to build transmission lines in Missouri and Illinois that will bring more wind power onto the grid – not to mention coal power, from clean to conventional.
Saying that it was encouraged by a law enacted in June in Illinois that is supposed to streamline the approval process, Ameren, based in St. Louis, said it had $3 billion in potential new power lines in its sights. Financing will be easier to secure under this new structure, said Maureen Borkowski, who was named president and chief executive of the new subsidiary, the Ameren Transmission Company. Creation of a new utility to specialize in transmission is an unusual step, but Ms. Borkowski said that creating a new company that is a “transparent entity in the marketplace” would help it attract capital.
The Midwest Independent System Operator, the grid within which Ameren lies, has 5,000 megawatts of wind projects that want to be connected, she said. If wind is added to the grid in large quantities, the company’s 64,000-square-mile territory will become a thoroughfare for that energy, she said.
When money from Barnett Shale natural-gas drilling started pouring into rural Johnson County a few years ago, there was no doubt good times had come. “We got hit like a rocket ship” by all that new prosperity, former County Commissioner R.C. McFall told a crowd at an EPA public meeting on possible new air-pollution rules for the oil and gas industry.
But eventually there were drawbacks, such as the haze of air pollution that started obscuring the horizon.
After a while, he said, he no longer had a clear view from his house of two local landmarks: the twin reactor-containment domes at the nearby Comanche Peak nuclear power plant.
In a new profile in Details magazine, Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul is quoted arguing that the coal mining industry should be allowed to self-regulate without interference from the federal government. Here’s a quote from a speech Paul gave recently at a coal facility operated by a subsidiary of Massey Energy, the owner of the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, where an explosion killed 29 miners in April.
“Is there a certain amount of accidents and unfortunate things that do happen, no matter what the regulations are?” Paul says at the Harlan Center, in response to a question about the Big Branch disaster. “The bottom line is I’m not an expert, so don’t give me the power in Washington to be making rules. You live here, and you have to work in the mines. You’d try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don’t, I’m thinking that no one will apply for those jobs.”
Massey Energy Co. said methane monitors weren’t disabled in a key section of the coal mine where 29 workers were killed in an April 5 explosion.
Federal investigators and a grand jury investigating the accident are looking into tampering of safety devices, including methane monitors that are designed to shut machinery down if dangerous levels of gas are reached.
Massey officials, including CEO Don Blankenship, met with family members for several hours at a Charleston, W.Va., hotel Monday to explain progress of the company’s own investigation into the accident at the Upper Big Branch Mine, the worst mining disaster in 40 years. During that session, the company said the monitors weren’t disabled.
Several former Massey miners have recently said they witnessed methane monitors being disabled at the mine. The monitors are a focus of the investigations because high levels of methane are believed to have led to the explosion.
And from the hard-to-believe section of the news:
The United States assured international negotiators Monday it remains committed to reducing carbon emissions over the next 10 years, despite the collapse of efforts to legislate a climate bill.
U.S. delegate Jonathan Pershing told a climate conference in Bonn, Germany, Washington is not backing away from President Barack Obama’s pledge to cut emissions 17 percent from 2005 levels. Pershing said legislation is the preferred way to control greenhouse gases, but the administration “will use all the tools available” to reach its target.
Obama made the pledge at a climate summit in Copenhagen last December, and affirmed it in a formal note to the U.N. climate secretariat. At the time, the U.S. House of Representatives had passed a climate bill and the Senate had been broadly expected to follow suit.
But the withdrawal of a scaled down climate bill last week in the Senate raised concern about America’s commitment to fight global warming and disappointed developing countries that had hoped Obama would seize international leadership on the issue.