What would it take to switch the country’s [world’s] entire energy infrastructure to renewables like wind and solar by 2030?
According to National Geographic, about 4 million massive wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants and a four-fold increase in production of a rare earth metal that is a major component of key renewable energy technologies.
Mark Delucchi and Mark Jacobson, professors at the University of California-Davis and Stanford University, have developed a roadmap of sorts for moving away from coal and oil.
The roadmap is largely theoretical; lawmakers are struggling to pass legislation that would require 20 percent of the country’s electricity to come from renewable sources, and efforts to pass a broad climate bill have collapsed. But the team’s research has provided one of the first pictures of exactly what it might take to rely fully on renewable energy. Despite the hurdles, they say it’s possible. “Technically you can do it. It really depends on will power,” Jacobson told National Geographic.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s chief said the implementation of climate change agreements made at Cancun last month “won’t happen overnight”, and policymakers must take action now “because the clock is ticking.”
“In the short term, we should focus on areas where we can get the cheapest and quickest carbon dioxide reductions,” Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser said at a renewable energy conference in Abu Dhabi today. “It will take a while for international standards to be implemented, but we are of the opinion that we have to move now.”
Voser offered four ways for policymakers to begin reducing CO2 emissions: energy efficiency, increased use of natural gas, carbon capture and storage projects, and biofuels.
Energy efficiency, such as fuel-efficient vehicles and insulation of buildings, will need government mandates and regulation, he said.
Increased use of natural gas, which would cut emissions by 60-70 percent if it was used in place of coal, will also require government policy to support the switch in fuel type. China has already pledged to obtain 8 percent of its energy consumption from gas by 2020, compared with 4 percent now, he said.
Going into the U.N. global-warming summit in Cancºn last month, U.S. negotiators had one big reason to be worried: China. At the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, an obstinate Beijing repeatedly blocked progress on an agreement, with Chinese negotiators even snubbing President Barack Obama when he arrived for last-minute talks. China signed onto the limited agreement Copenhagen did produce only reluctantly, and during much of 2010 seemed to back away from any climate commitments “” although U.S. failure to pass climate legislation during the same period didn’t help. When they arrived in Cancºn, American diplomats were worried that they would face a Chinese wall again “” and this time they said they were all but willing to abandon the U.N. climate process if Beijing didn’t play ball.
Maybe it was the sunny clime, but Chinese negotiators went to Mexico ready to compromise. The result was the Cancºn Agreements “” not a legal treaty, but a diplomatic pact that for the first time committed both developed and developing nations (including China) to act on greenhouse-gas emissions. That agreement bolstered the faltering international climate process, but it also provided hope that the U.S. and China “” increasingly at odds over the global economy and geopolitics “” might be able to come together on climate and energy. “Our cooperation at the U.N. climate conference in Mexico was critical to the conclusion of the Cancºn Agreements,” said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a speech on Jan. 14. “Now we must build on that progress by implementing the agreements on transparency, funding and clean-energy technology.”
This week, there will be a splendid opportunity to do just that, when Chinese President Hu Jintao makes a state visit to Washington to meet with President Obama. Though the agenda will be packed with knotty global issues “” trade and currency policy, North Korea and human rights “” climate and energy will be a focus of the meetings as well, and could provide a welcome area of accord and agreement. If so, the benefits will flow well beyond merely China and the U.S. “This is not just a matter of the two countries,” says Zou Ji, China country program director for the World Resources Institute. “It’s a matter for the entire world.”
General Electric Co. plans to announce Chinese rail, aviation and energy projects yielding at least $2.1 billion in sales during President Hu Jintao’s visit to the U.S. this week.
The joint ventures and orders include high-speed rail, locomotives, power turbines, clean coal technology and avionics. They may support about 5,000 jobs including from U.S. suppliers, the Fairfield, Connecticut-based company said.
GE’s China sales are rising at about 20 percent annually and should grow in the “high double-digits” in 2011 as the company builds partnerships and seeks orders, Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt said last month. The company got about $33 billion of its $157 billion in 2009 revenue from emerging markets, with more than $5.3 billion in China.
Immelt, who has said GE intends to be one of the top five U.S. exporters “at all times,” will attend a meeting with Hu, President Barack Obama and U.S. and Chinese executives during Hu’s state visit. Some of the projects were disclosed when Immelt traveled to Beijing in November.
GE’s rail division, based in Erie, Pennsylvania, will sign letters of intent tomorrow for ventures that may bring in $1.4 billion and add or preserve 2,000 U.S. jobs, including an order for 500 exported locomotive kits and related services valued at $350 million, GE Transportation CEO Lorenzo Simonelli said in an interview.
U.S. Marines may be on the verge of turning a long-time enemy into an ally. In this case, that enemy is the desert sun. Thanks to flexible solar panels, the sun can help run military equipment “” and it may even cut down on casualties.
By using solar power and placing an emphasis on energy conservation, Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment say they cut diesel consumption in their generators from 20 gallons a day to 2.5 gallons a day, according to a Marine report.
The regiment tested the equipment in Afghanistan at the end of last year, in what may be the first large-scale military test of solar power there.
Eight companies, including one with Maryland ties, have indicated their interest in developing wind energy projects off the state’s coast, federal officials disclosed Friday.
State and industry officials hailed what they called a “robust” response to the federal government’s call for developers to indicate whether they want to try generating electricity from wind turbines placed in the Atlantic 12 miles or more from Ocean City.
Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement had invited potential wind developers in November to express their interest in leasing sites in a 207 nautical-square-mile area off the state’s 31-mile coastline. The deadline for responding was Monday.
The federal process has confirmed that there is robust, competitive private sector interest in developing Maryland’s outstanding offshore wind resources,” Maryland Energy Director Malcolm D. Woolf said in a statement. “We are confident that the competitive leasing process will result in one or more Maryland offshore wind farms, which will create thousands of jobs and generate much-needed clean electricity for our region.
The total eclipse of 800 Massachusetts jobs by Evergreen Solar, as the firm shifts those jobs to China despite $58 million in state aid, shows just how fast the so-called green jobs manufacturing revolution is dimming. It belies any feel-good rhetoric such as President Obama’s assertion, “I don’t want solar panels and wind turbines built in Asia or Europe. I want them made right here in the US of A.” It should spur Governor Patrick and other governors to huddle with Obama on the viability of state funds for individual firms without a true national strategy on clean energy.
Even if well spent, state aid and current federal tax incentives for solar manufacturing are dwarfed by manufacturing subsidies and cheap labor abroad. American investment in clean energy in 2009 was only about half that of China, according to a Pew report. The United States only ranks 11th among the G-20 nations in clean energy investment as a percentage of gross domestic product. Spain leads the way on that score, followed by the United Kingdom, China, and Brazil.
Evergreen’s announcement this week that it will close its Devens plant came a day after Massachusetts Senator John Kerry lamented how China leapfrogged us to be the world’s largest solar manufacturer. “We invented the technology but China is reaping the rewards,” he said in a speech. Energy analyst Sam Dubinsky says that Evergreen’s struggles signal a “shake-out year for the industry, favoring low-cost producers in China.”
In a telephone interview, analyst Christine Hersey of Wedbush Securities said that while Evergreen may have had unique, self-inflicted problems, the job cuts represent a universal dilemma. Any solutions must go far beyond protectionist tinkering, such as the federal “Buy American” provision enacted last week for military solar panel procurement, effectively banning Chinese-made panels. The measure’s sponsor, Representative Maurice Hinchey, a New York Democrat, said, “This is a common-sense approach to ensuring that American manufacturing jobs are supported.”
The presidential commission examining the causes of the BP oil spill Wednesday laid blame for the disaster on corporate mismanagement, inadequate government regulation and ultimately a lack of political will to ensure proper oversight of the oil industry as it pushed drilling rigs into ever deeper waters.
Releasing a key chapter of its final report on the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, the commission recounted what is by now the well-known string of missteps that led to one of the world’s largest offshore oil spills.
But it went on to issue a broader indictment, calling for both the industry and the government to reform their practices or risk a repeat of the BP disaster, which killed 11 men and tainted the gulf with 205 million gallons of crude.
“The blowout was not the product of a series of aberrational decisions made by rogue industry or government officials that could not have been anticipated or expected to occur again,” the chapter said. “Rather, the root causes are systemic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur.”
The commission, established in May by President Obama to examine the causes of the blowout and make recommendations to prevent future spills, will issue its full report next week.