Energy and global warming news for December 23: More scrapped coal plants, oil hits $90, and Big Oil works to whitewash the history of BP disaster

More scrapped plans, retirements for U.S. plants in 2010

Over the course of this year, more U.S. coal-fired power plants were tapped for retirement and more proposed plants were canceled than in 2009, according to an end-of-year report by the Sierra Club, which is fighting the continued use of coal.

Data collected by the advocacy group show that 38 coal plant projects were dropped or delayed in 2010, up from 26 the year before and 27 in 2008. Meanwhile, power producers announced plans to retire 48 existing plants this year, four times as many as in 2009 and 12 times as many as in the year before that.

The retirements announced this year would take 12,000 megawatts of coal-fired power off the grid — roughly 4 percent of the nation’s total coal-fired capacity and enough electricity to power about 6 million American homes.

Construction was not started on any new coal plants this year, as was the case last year, and the same situation is expected for 2011, the Sierra Club said. Environmentalists, who have sought to slow the construction of coal plants by challenging their permits and supporting strict new rules on the production and use of coal, see the numbers as a victory.

“Coal is a fuel of the past. What we’re seeing now is the beginning of growing trend to leave it there,” said Mary Anne Hitt, the director of the advocacy group’s “Beyond Coal” campaign, in a statement today.

Oil tops $90 for first time in more than two years

Crude oil rose to its highest closing price in more than two years today after government reports showed that U.S. supplies dropped and the country’s economy grew more than previously estimated in the third quarter.

Stockpiles fell 5.33 million barrels to 340.7 million last week, the Energy Department said. A 3.4 million-barrel decline was forecast, according to the median of 14 responses in a Bloomberg News survey. The Commerce Department said gross domestic product expanded 2.6 percent in the third quarter, up from a previous estimate of 2.5 percent.

“Today’s crude numbers were very bullish,” said Andre Julian, chief financial officer and senior market strategist at OpVest Wealth Management in Irvine, California. “The GDP numbers point to extended growth in the U.S. Previously, we were seeing economic and demand growth in China and emerging markets, now it’s spreading here.”

Clean-tech investments will continue growing faster in 2011, Ernst & Young forecasts (subs req’d)

Clean technology investments will continue to accelerate next year after building momentum this year, according to a report from accounting firm Ernst & Young.

Venture capital investment in companies that produce everything from renewable power generators to batteries and biofuels rose 25 percent in the first three quarters of 2010 over the same period last year, and overall venture capital is set to reach $4.9 billion by the end of the year, the report says. That’s on top of the clean energy business incentives offered by governments across the world that have already helped grow the green industry.

“Governments have really realized the essence and benefits of clean tech, and at the corporate level there’s an acceleration of activity on the investment and acquisition side,” said Ernst & Young global clean tech leader, Gil Forer. “We definitely expect it will continue to accelerate in 2011 and going forward.”

Big Oil Money Working to Rewrite History of Gulf Oil Disaster

Big polluters have spent years funding think tanks to give a veneer of credibility to their push for profit. I mean, if the CEO of Exxon Mobil comes out and says Congress should roll back the Clean Air Act, it would just rally people behind pollution limits. So instead, Exxon Mobil has given more than $2 million to the Competitive Enterprise Institute to say it for them.

Now the polluter-funded think tank-media complex has a new target – whitewashing the Gulf oil disaster. Robert Nelson has an opinion piece made up to look like a news article in the Weekly Standard claiming the Gulf oil disaster caused little damage and calling anyone who would claim otherwise “secular equivalents to the devil.”

Why would a public policy professor at the University of Maryland write something not just so wrong, but with such an angry, combative tone? A look at Nelson’s extracurricular activities reveals a web of connections to big polluters like Koch Industries & Exxon Mobil:

Given those polluter ties, it becomes less shocking that Nelson would go to such incredible lengths to bend some facts & ignore many others to suit his purposes:

  • Those incredibly high rates of dolphin & endangered sea turtle deaths in the Gulf this summer? Unrelated to the BP oil, says Nelson. That’s right – according to Nelson, unless the creature was found literally covered in oil, it should not even be considered in the conversation of oil disaster impacts.
  • If a creature dies in the oil slick & sinks to the bottom, Nelson believes that doesn’t count as part of the disaster toll either.
  • That many of the worst impacts of the Exxon Valdez disaster took years to reveal themselves? Nelson doesn’t want to talk about that.

I could spend all day debunking all the distortions & deliberate omissions in Nelson’s piece, but that would miss the big picture. The same groups who denied the link between cancer & smoking and deny the link between carbon pollution & global warming are now being enlisted to deny the impacts of the Gulf oil disaster, and by extension the risks of our oil addiction.

Spain’s Cuts to Solar Aid Draw Fire

A group of international investors has called on the Spanish government to reconsider plans to cut costly subsidies for solar power, saying they would cause a wave of defaults and more bad loans for Europe’s banks.

Tom Murley, head of the renewable-energy team at U.K. private-equity firm HgCapital, said the changes represented a “breach of trust” that would increase regulatory uncertainty in the Spanish renewables industry.

“If they proceed on this path, they’ll endanger not only our investment, but the whole sector,” said Mr. Murley, who represents a group of 20 pension-fund managers and strategic investors…

White House: Polar bears not ‘endangered’

The Obama administration is sticking with a George W. Bush-era decision to deny polar bears endangered species status.

In a court filing Wednesday, the Fish and Wildlife Service defended the previous administration’s decision to give the polar bear the less-protective “threatened” species designation, a move that will frustrate environmentalists who hoped for stronger protections under the Endangered Species Act.

JR:  Polar bears are indeed endangered — see Polar bear, Arctic sea ice all-but doomed: Misleading Nature cover story misleads the media, public

17 Responses to Energy and global warming news for December 23: More scrapped coal plants, oil hits $90, and Big Oil works to whitewash the history of BP disaster

  1. Michael T. says:

    I found this 60 Minutes segment with Joe Romm:

    Powered By Coal

    “Coal is America’s most abundant and cheapest fossil fuel but, as Scott Pelley reports, burning it happens to be the biggest contributor to global warming.”

  2. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Your concern over Nelson’s ‘..angry, combative, tone’ is familiar. The Rightwing denialist industry in Australia, centred on Murdoch’s FoxNews Ltd and its coterie of far Right propagandists, has, over the years but increasingly in recent days, grown ever more shrill, abusive and threatening. It is now unremarkable for one of these ideological thugs to preface another propaganda tract with an observation like ‘I detest environmentalists, like all right thinking people..’. Editorials openly call for the Green Party which did well in the latest Federal election, to be ‘destroyed’.And the opinion blatherers and the anti-Green rabble who dominate comments, are positively vitriolic in their hatred and abuse.
    Of course much of this is just a reflection of the Rightwing authoritarian personality type, which is existentially fueled by hatred, rancour and the lust to dominate. But I detect a rising hysteria, reflective, I think, of the realisation that the lies are no longer working, that the appeals to viciousness and ignorance are no longer efficacious, and that people are waking to the realisation that a system, market capitalism, that impoverishes the many and is destroying the life-support systems of the planet to enrich a tiny parasitic elite, is evil, and must be done away with if humanity is to survive. In other words the extremity of hatred and abuse is a good sign, a sign that the pathocrats are running scared.

  3. fj3 says:

    Iceland and China Establish Strategic Geothermal Partnership… via @energycollectiv

  4. Prospace Environmentalist says:

    It’s official: not only Obama hates the wolves, he also hates the polar bears! Now that I think about it…I should have known that he hates all wildlife, given his pathetic response to the BP oil spill crisis.

  5. Prokaryotes says:

    (Reuters) – Rain-weary Southern Californians awoke to sunny skies on Thursday and began cleaning up from floods and mudslides that damaged hundreds of homes, businesses and roads during a week of storms.

    Capping seven days of downpours that dumped roughly half as much rain as Los Angeles typically gets during an entire year

    Top nmews @ google

  6. Mike says:

    This is an article on science education in Science. It is mostly about helping people understand evolution but the authors are broadening their outreach to other areas of science.

    Science 24 December 2010:
    Vol. 330 no. 6012 pp. 1764-1765
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1186994

    Essays on Science and Society

    Science 101: Building the Foundations for Real Understanding

    Anastasia Thanukos1, Judith G. Scotchmoor1, Roy Caldwell and David R. Lindberg

    It’s not just about evolution anymore. Growing anti-science sentiment in the United States now infuses public discourse on conservation, vaccination, distribution of research funds, and climate change.

    They discuss two web sites they have developed.

  7. Prokaryotes says:

    Heavy Rains in Central and South America

    The Panama Canal closed for 17 hours in early December 2010, only the third time in its 96-year history. Authorities closed the canal after heavy rains raised two artificial lakes associated with it, Alajuela and Gatun, to unprecedented levels. The heavy rains occurred in a persistent low-pressure area along the Intertropical Convergence Zone where winds from the Northern and Southern Hemispheres meet and fuel strong storms. The canal-closing rains in Panama continued a pattern of heavy rain in Central and South America from the previous month.

    This color-coded image shows rainfall amounts from December 6 to December 12, 2010. The heaviest rainfall—more than 600 millimeters or nearly 24 inches—appears in dark blue. The lightest amounts—less than 75 millimeters or 3 inches—appear in light green. The heaviest rainfall occurs along the coast of northeastern Panama. Another pocket of heavy rain occurs along Colombia’s Pacific coast.

    Although the canal reopened on December 9, 2010, rain continued falling. On December 13, the Associated Press reported that 2,500 homes had been damaged and 10 people had been killed because of the heavy rains.

    Previous closures of the Panama Canal occurred in 1989 when the United Sates invaded Panama to oust Manuel Noriega, and in 1915–1916 in the wake of local landslides.

    Lago Alajuela, Panama

    Lago Alajuela serves as a reservoir for the Panama Canal, which lies to the lake’s southwest. On December 17, 2010, several days after the canal’s temporary closure, the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured this natural-color image of Lago Alajuela.

    Torrential rains can erode soils, delivering heavy sediment loads to streams, rivers, and lakes. Ranging in color from dull green to tan, Lago Alajuela appears choked with sediment, contrasting sharply with the surrounding green forest.

  8. Prokaryotes says:

    Billionaire Backs a Gas-Electric Hybrid Car to Be Built in Russia

    Mikhail D. Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who owns the New Jersey Nets basketball team, rolled out another pet project on Monday: Russia’s first gas-electric hybrid car.

    While two electric motors propel the Yo, a small petroleum engine that can burn either gasoline or natural gas will run nearly continuously to generate the electricity they consume. Instead of charging a battery, as in the hybrid Toyota Prius, the generator in the Yo either powers the motors directly or fills a bank of capacitors that can hold only a small charge.

    The designers say that at about 67 miles per gallon, the Yo will achieve better fuel economy than the Toyota Prius (about 51 miles per gallon), in part because it is lighter. Like other gas-electric hybrids, it will also have a total range far beyond that of a pure plug-in electric car like the newly introduced Nissan Leaf.

    Natural Gas = Gasland + Methane

  9. Prokaryotes says:

    Heavy rains, mud slides wash away Christmas spirit in California

    The storm’s push across the West left a muddy mess Thursday across southern California and the threat of avalanches in Nevada, where Clark County officials urged residents of Mt. Charleston, near Las Vegas, to leave after snowslides near two mountain hamlets.

    Preliminary damage estimates throughout California were already in the tens of millions of dollars and were expected to rise. The inland region of southern California east of Los Angeles was among the hardest-hit areas, especially San Bernardino County.

    In Highland, people were literally chased from their homes by walls of mud and water. They returned Thursday to find as many as 70 homes, some with Christmas presents under the tree, inundated with mud several feet deep.

    “The ground is so saturated it could move at any time,” and the threat will remain for several weeks, said Bob Spencer, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works.

  10. Prokaryotes says:

    Holiday travelers face record gas prices

    The national average for a gallon of regular gas has topped three dollars, and that’s the highest ever during Christmas.

    AAA says 9 out of 10 Americans will be driving to their holiday destination this year.

    It’s the first time the price of gas has topped $3 a gallon at Christmas, and two years ago it was closed to $1.60 a gallon. Analysts say the increase is due to an improved economy and increased demand.

  11. Prokaryotes says:

    E.P.A. Says It Will Press on With Greenhouse Gas Regulation

    The Environmental Protection Agency announced a timetable on Thursday for issuing rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and oil refineries, signaling a resolve to press ahead on such regulation even as it faces stiffening opposition in Congress.

    The agency said it would propose performance standards for new and refurbished power plants next July, with final rules to be issued in May 2012. Proposed emissions standards for new oil refineries will be published next December, it said, with the final rules due in November 2012; rules for existing plants would come later.

    But the E.P.A. was vague on how stringent the rules would be and how deep a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions would result.

    2012 isn’t this almost the 2 years “break”, Rockefeller opted for?

  12. Prokaryotes says:

    Paternally Induced Transgenerational Environmental Reprogramming of Metabolic Gene Expression in Mammals

    Diet consumed by male mice can affect gene expression in offspring
    Offspring of animals on low-protein diet upregulate cholesterol biosynthesis genes
    Paternal diet affects hepatic levels of cholesterol esters in offspring
    Response is partially linked to methylation changes at a putative enhancer of Pparα

    Epigenetic information can be inherited through the mammalian germline and represents a plausible transgenerational carrier of environmental information. To test whether transgenerational inheritance of environmental information occurs in mammals, we carried out an expression profiling screen for genes in mice that responded to paternal diet. Offspring of males fed a low-protein diet exhibited elevated hepatic expression of many genes involved in lipid and cholesterol biosynthesis and decreased levels of cholesterol esters, relative to the offspring of males fed a control diet. Epigenomic profiling of offspring livers revealed numerous modest (20%) changes in cytosine methylation depending on paternal diet, including reproducible changes in methylation over a likely enhancer for the key lipid regulator Ppara. These results, in conjunction with recent human epidemiological data, indicate that parental diet can affect cholesterol and lipid metabolism in offspring and define a model system to study environmental reprogramming of the heritable epigenome.

  13. Ziyu says:

    Just curious, how much CO2 (as a % of its per unit of energy emissions) does the creation of ethanol sequester? The chemical equations tell me the emissions per unit of energy for ethanol are actually 2 times that of octane, not including the CO2 absorbtion effect of the corn plant. I’ve heard some studies say it’s less than 50% while the most favorable ones I’ve seen say 60%.

  14. John McCormick says:

    RE # 12

    Prokaryotes, we thought we had a challenge getting out the right messages on AGW. A piece of cake compared to the gene(iouses) who study and have to report on parental diet affecting cholesterol and lipid metabolism in offspring.

    John McCormick

  15. fj3 says:

    The Danger of Cosmic Genius (Kenneth Brower, The Atlantic, December 2010)
    How can bona fide genius Freeman Dyson (the British physicist, not the British vacuum cleaner guy — although I read a great story about James Dyson this year, too) also be a climate change skeptic? Brower provides a great analysis of why super smart does not always equal right.

    [JR: Well, he isn’t a bona fide genius on any practical matter. His important work on physics was several decades ago, then he thought you could power a rocket ship by setting off nuclear bombs! Since then, he’s been much more hat than cattle.]

  16. Paulm says:

    #4 Prospace, it’s all a big game of chess. Obama is an animal lover.

  17. fj3 says:

    #15 fj3 regarding JR: “. . . he isn’t a bona fide genius . . ”

    Well, perhaps dumb mistakes eliminates lots of people, and well, maybe those are with perhaps imperfect wisdom in other directions like artists & musicians; like Ray Charles expressing a sense of humanity with his last commercial hit: “Genius Loves Company” . . . ?