April 27 news: Florida Tea Party helps kill renewable plan; Wind farm growth a windfall for truckers

Legislators again reject renewable energy plan

Solar and biomass energy companies mourned the loss of a sure job development opportunity Tuesday as the state Senate’s budget chief put a spear through a bill to spur renewable energy in Florida.

“I’d pronounce that one dead,” said Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee after he indefinitely postponed a bill that would have allowed Florida’s largest electric companies to raise electric rates as much as $375 million a year for five years to develop alternative energy.

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” said Alexander, a citrus grower. “I can’t believe we’d ask Florida to pay $1 billion in additional assessments with zero regulatory oversight. I think that’s fundamentally not right.”

This is the third year the bill has been the priority of Florida Power & Light, and it is the third time the bill has died. The only thing new this year is that the Koch brothers-backed Americans For Prosperity joined in the chorus of opponents to argue against the bill.

The conservative tea party group opposed the bill because the rate increase was “a direct hit on the wallets of every Floridian,” but renewable energy companies disliked it because they saw it as a handout to the state’s electric monopolies. They tried but failed to get House and Senate leaders to expand the bill to allow generators of rooftop solar power or biomass plants to generate and sell energy alongside the utilities.

More than 30 bills attempting to develop a commercial market for renewable energy in Florida were proposed this session, but only the FPL-backed bill got a hearing.

It can take up to nine separate truckloads to transport the parts that make up the huge wind turbines that are assembled on Iowa's wind farms. One blade of a wind turbine is shown being trucked here.

Wind farm growth also a windfall for truckers

MidAmerican Energy of Des Moines will begin construction of a 593-megawatt wind farm, which will include 193 turbines in Adair County alone.

“Wind turbine units can have up to nine loads apiece,” said Phoumine Baccum, who administers oversize truck permits for the Iowa Department of Transportation. “The blades come in three pieces, each a separate load, the towers are usually three separate loads, and there are separate loads for the hub and the nacelle and for other equipment.”

Brad Kohlwes’ family trucking company in Des Moines hauls for wind farms. “This is a real boost for the trucking industry and for Iowa’s economy,” he said. “I just wish we didn’t have to pay more than $4 for diesel like we do.”

… Wind energy has proved to be a windfall for the trucking industry in general. Mitchell Dillavou, director of the Iowa DOT’s engineering division, said the number of permits for special loads for wind farm work, including maintenance and repairs, “has run into the hundreds of thousands over the years.”The transport of a piece of a wind turbine is no small thing. The trucks run as long as 180 feet, well more than double Iowa’s longest truck length limit of 75 feet for auto transporters.

Their weight can reach up to 400,000 pounds for the three-megawatt capacity turbine blades that will be used in the next round of wind farms.

Ending Oil Subsidies May Boost Clean Energy, Sperling Says

Ending billions of dollars in U.S. tax breaks for the oil and gas industry would provide money for investments to encourage clean-energy technologies, said Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council.

While the Obama administration has been forced to reduce spending, current fiscal constraints shouldn’t mean that “the idea of increased investments in any area should be off the table,” Sperling said today at a conference in Washington.

President Barack Obama urged congressional leaders today to act quickly on proposals to eliminate tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and use the savings to fund clean-energy programs. The subsidies are estimated at $4 billion a year.

“In this type of fiscal moment, you have to ask yourself whether that $4 billion” is worthwhile compared with using it to reduce the deficit and “in the areas that could lead us to a brighter and cleaner and more secure energy future,” Sperling said.

Blaming the White House for Gas Prices Is As Silly As …

Say it with me now: The White House does not set gas prices. The White House does not set gas prices. The White House does not set gas prices.

Still, objective journalists write about the political impact of expensive gas as though it’s perfectly reasonable to think otherwise [via AP]:

The president is among those who’ve said the surging price for crude is caused by worries about political upheaval in the Arab world and increasing demand from China and elsewhere.

Still, Americans have a tradition of holding the party in power responsible for rising gas costs.

See, the White House might not control international oil markets, but if enough people insist on blaming the president anyway, we should probably give both sides equal time! It made me wonder how this approach might address summer temperatures.

The president is among those who’ve said that surging temperatures across the country are caused by the summertime angle of the earth and longer exposure to sunlight.

Still, Americans have a tradition of holding the party in power responsible for higher mercury readings.

Obama Seizes On Boehner’s Openness To Ending Big Oil’s Tax Breaks

House Speaker John Boehner opened the door and President Obama has leaped through it.

In an interview with ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl that aired Monday Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said he was open to considering reducing tax breaks like the depletion allowance received by the nation’s largest oil and gas companies.

Boehner said:

“It’s certainly something we should be looking at. We’re in a time when the federal government’s short on revenues. They ought to be paying their fair share.”

On Tuesday Obama, who Republicans have blamed for high gas prices, used Boehner’s words as a springboard. The president sent a letter to congressional leaders welcoming the speaker’s statement and essentially urging Congress’s top Republican to put his political clout where mouth is.

Obama wrote in part:

In fact, in the past CEO’s of the major oil companies made it clear that high oil prices provide more than enough profit motive to invest in domestic exploration and production without special tax breaks. As we work together to reduce our deficits, we simply can’t afford these wasteful subsidies, and that is why I proposed to eliminate them in my FY11 and FY12 budgets.

I was heartened that Speaker Boehner yesterday expressed openness to eliminating these tax subsidies for the oil and gas industry. Our political system has for too long avoided and ignored this important step, and I hope we can come together in a bipartisan manner to get it done.

EPA to shed light on fracturing rules

Federal regulators will soon clarify the rules for natural gas companies that inject diesel fuel into the ground as part of their hydraulic fracturing operations, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday.

The guidance, which EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says is coming “very shortly,” is meant to clear up rules for natural gas producers.

A congressional investigation concluded earlier this year that companies have not secured EPA permits before injecting more than 32 million gallons of diesel fuel and other fluids into the ground in fracturing operations between 2005 and 2009.

States historically have regulated hydraulic fracturing. The technique involves injecting mixtures of water, sand and chemicals including diesel fuel deep underground at high pressures to break up dense shale rock and release gas locked in it. Although Congress exempted most hydraulic fracturing activities from EPA’s jurisdiction as part of a 2005 rewrite of the Safe Drinking Water Act, that exception does not apply to diesel – even though the government only began to regulate it last year.

Jackson insisted that the EPA has authority to regulate diesel fuel in fracturing fluids.

“Our belief is that this is not exempt,” she said. “That exception specifically says that diesel is not exempt. So if you are injecting diesel, that is a concern.”

Obama Urges End to ‘Unwarranted’ Oil, Natural Gas Tax Breaks

President Barack Obama urged congressional leaders to act quickly on his proposals to eliminate “unwarranted” tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and use the savings to fund clean-energy programs.

His request to Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress came after House Speaker John Boehner expressed “openness to eliminating these tax subsidies,” according to a letter released today by the White House.

Obama said there is “no silver bullet” to stop rising gasoline prices that are putting pressure on consumers and threatening to hinder the recovery. Instead, the U.S. should act to buffer Americans from higher prices in the long term by investing in alternative energy, he said.

“One of those steps is to eliminate unwarranted tax breaks to the oil and gas industry and invest that revenue into clean energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Obama wrote in a letter to Boehner, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Energy prices, particularly for gasoline, are emerging as a political issue as Obama is preparing for his 2012 re-election campaign. Oil for June delivery fell 52 cents to $111.76 a barrel at 1:49 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices have gained about 33 percent in the past year. The average retail price for a gallon of gasoline is $3.869, compared with $2.854 a year ago, according to the AAA’s daily survey.

Jackson: Climate regs ‘nothing to fear’

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said Tuesday the public has no reason to fear the agency’s pending climate regulations.

“I believe there is nothing to fear from common-sense use of the Clean Air Act to begin to put this country in the direction of moving towards addressing our greenhouse-gas emissions,” Jackson said during remarks at an energy conference in Washington.

The EPA has begun phasing in greenhouse-gas standards for new and modified power plants and refineries. The regulations have come under attack from Republicans and some centrist Democrats, who argue the rules will harm the economy. The House passed a bill earlier this month to block EPA climate rules; the Senate failed to pass the legislation.

Jackson said she and President Obama would have preferred putting limits on greenhouse-gas emissions through legislation. But efforts to pass such a bill fell apart in the Senate last year several months after the House passed cap-and-trade legislation.

“So now we’re left with the Clean Air Act. It’s not the ideal tool, but it is a tool, and according to the Supreme Court it is a tool,” Jackson said, referring to a landmark 2007 Supreme Court decision that said the EPA could regulate greenhouse-gas emissions under the Clean Air Act if the agency found they endanger public health and welfare. EPA made such a finding in 2009.

State Of The Air 2011: Air Quality Report Reveals High Pollution Levels In U.S. Cities

The American Lung Association’s newest State of the Air report is a bit like getting a 53 on your math test after you got a 49 on your last one. Yes, you’ve improved, but you’re still failing the class.

Though the report, released Wednesday, states that air quality has improved in some places, over 154 million people are still threatened by dangerously high pollution levels nationwide. Some cities, like Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, reduced their overall pollution levels, yet their year-round particle pollution levels are still higher than the national standard, and Los Angeles County is still ranked on all three “25 Most Polluted Counties” lists. In other words, things are improving, but they’re still not good enough.

The 2011 State of the Air Report, which is based on data from 2007 to 2009, reports on levels of pollution from monitoring sites across the U.S. The report focuses on two specific types of pollution — ozone and particle pollution — because according to the ALA, these types are most responsible for the country’s air pollution problem.

Ozone air pollution is different than the ozone layer found in the stratosphere, which provides a necessary barrier from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Rather, ozone air pollution, which is found at ground level, is harmful to breathe and is the primary ingredient in smog. Contributors to ozone pollution include tailpipe and smokestack emissions.

17 Responses to April 27 news: Florida Tea Party helps kill renewable plan; Wind farm growth a windfall for truckers

  1. paulm says:

    So here we see how our risk assessment tends to downplay risk….I bet this was not in the original assessments as is sea level rise for coastal plants and in general GW events like the extrem weather event now and their frequency. Also something out of the blue, geological events triggered by GW.

  2. “a landmark 2007 Supreme Court decision that said the EPA could regulate greenhouse-gas emissions under the Clean Air Act if the agency found they endanger public health and welfare.”

    I believe that the Supreme Court said the EPA MUST regulate (not “could” regulate) GHG emissions if it found the endanger public health and welfare.

  3. malcreado says:

    So let me get this straight, in Canada they use Natural Gas to cook the Tar Sands and produce petroleum and here in the States we use millions of gallons of petroleum products to produce Natural Gas. You know when they get around to building that pipeline (that nobody wants) they should put 2 of them in so we can sent up our natural gas to help their petroleum extraction and they can send down their petroleum to help our gas extraction. It could really make this process more efficient, improve our GDP’s and boost both our trade.

  4. Ric Merritt says:

    In the wind farm story, the seemingly tangential comment by the trucker bemoaning expensive diesel fuel cuts closer to the heart than most realize.

    Oil (and diesel) are GOING AWAY. We don’t know exactly how fast, but we know we are already in big trouble. If we can’t build and maintain wind infrastructure without oil, we won’t build or maintian wind infrastructure AT ALL.

    Think about it a little. It’s not really that hard, except for the willingness to follow the logic where it actually leads. That’s the hard part for us humans.

  5. 44Guyton says:

    So I’m confused. How do wind turbines reduce air pollution? Tell us how many fossil fuel power plants will be closed with the installation of wind turbines. Name the fossil fuel plants that were closed U.S. or Canada.

    The White House is not responsible for the rise in oil prices. What has the White House done to reduce America’s dependence on oil from other nations in the Middle East? ZERO! The WH solution; drive an electric car. If you are driving an SUV get rid of it and buy a SMART car.

    Please don’t use wind as an excuse to reduce our dependence on oil. Less than 1% (0.9%) of the fuel used to produce electrcity in the United States comes from oil (From the Dept. of Energy).

    No subsidies. Great! FOR EVERYBODY; Oil, Ethanol, G.E., wind. Cut it all.

  6. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I’m putting my $ on Obama to win any fencing contest with Boehner – very quick on his feet, very quick to impale, ME

  7. Michael T says:

    March 2011 Wildfire Activity Second Highest Since 2000

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says March 2011 saw the second-most burned acres from wildfires. The most fire-intensive March proved to be the one in 2006, when the largest sum total of acres fell victim to an active fire season. An April update shows that this trend is likely to continue.

    NOAA blames temperatures markedly warmer than seasonally average — in conjunction with less than average rainfall — for the spike in fire damage. The numbers are indeed sobering. Some 7,316 wildfires have already burned 385,043 acres of land. By comparison, this number stood at 1,438,255 acres in March 2006.

    Read more:

  8. Barry says:

    Ric (#4) I’m with you on the issue of fossil oil becoming more expensive as it gets more difficult to extract.

    But I’m not sure $4/gallon diesel is a real problem for society. The EU nations have been paying far more than this for a decade. I believe diesel ranges from $7 to $9 a gallon there right now. They seem to have avoided hair shirts and shivering in caves so far.

    The reality is that oil is wasted on a gigantic scale because it is so cheap.

    To drive 160k miles, a Prius uses 3 thousand gallons, an Outback uses 7 thousand gallons and an Escalade uses almost 12 thousand. The very fact that Americans commonly choose to use many times more oil than they need for the same task tells you everything you need to know about how dirt cheap oil still is…and how easily our society could function just as well — or even much better — by using many times less.

  9. Barry says:

    Also there is nothing to keep society from producing liquid hydrocarbons from the air just like plants do today. Renewable petroleum from the air using solar energy is doable today in the lab.

  10. Barry says:

    44Guyton (#5) there are a number of coal fired power plants in the USA that have been selected for early retirement in recent years. In addition dozens of proposed coal-electricity plants have been abandoned in recent years as well. If you want a list of the big coal phase-out check the Sierra Club website.

    You are also wrong about the WH doing nothing to get USA off foreign oil. If you look at the stats from EIA you will see that the USA has been dramatically reducing the amount of oil it imports for the last few years now. There have been several efforts across both the executive and legislative branches that have played a part in this.

    Finally, the solution to imported oil is to stop using so much oil. And since we use most oil for transportation that means fuel switching our transportation fleet to use something we produce here in USA. Like say electricity from wind. Hey, wonder if anyone has thought of that before?

  11. Michael T says:

    The case for climate change

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the U.K. Meterological (Met) Office are combining forces — bringing together the expertise of observing Earth from space on the one hand, and the expertise of developing climate and weather models and forecasting on the other. Professor Julia Slingo OBE, Chief Scientist of the U.K. Meteorological Office, recently visited JPL and gave us her perspective on climate change and the state of the climate.

    In your view, what’s the most compelling piece of evidence for global warming?

    The most compelling piece of evidence that the public are aware of is the increase in the surface temperature of the planet. And that’s certainly very compelling, but I don’t think it’s enough on its own to make the case. What’s really important is to look at all sorts of other aspects of the climate system that are now providing us with an increasingly compelling case that something is happening to our climate and that it is indeed warming. Things like the decline in Arctic sea ice and the warming not just of the surface of the oceans, but down to several hundred meters in depth.

    There are other more unusual pieces of compelling evidence, such as the fact that the atmosphere above the troposphere — the part where our weather doesn’t really exist, which we call the stratosphere — is systematically cooling. It’s very difficult to explain that cooling except from the ways in which we’re altering the carbon dioxide concentrations in our atmosphere, which we believe are leading to the warming that we see.

    So it’s a whole basket of measures, and it’s very important to take a complete view — a holistic view — of what’s happening to the planet to provide us with the compelling evidence that we need to take action and that something is happening.

    Read more:

  12. 44Guyton says:

    Thank you for the list of fossil fuel power plants that have been closed as a direct result of WIND ENERGY!!! Yes I realize that the older fossil fuel power plants have been closed as they end thier normal life cycle. They should be closed and replace with cleaner, reliable technologies.

    For all those interested in the reliability of wind you may be interested in looking at a 600 wind turbine array in Ireland.

    The nameplate capacity of the array is 1741 MW. Capacity factor for this array……maybe 20% AVERAGE. New York’s wind turbine production as reported to the Depatment of Energy, 20.3% AVERAGE.

    Notice any problems with the volatility in production?

    Yes, England is scheduled to decommission a number of coal fired, base loaded, power plants soon and replace them with WIND turbine energy.

    I wonder how England is going to determine who sits in the dark when (if) they decommission the base loaded fossil fuel plants? Any volunteers?

    Yes, New York wants to decommission Indian Point nuclear power plant (2100 MW, base loaded)with a 96.1% capacity factor. Do you think wind is a suitable replacement?

  13. malcreado says:

    >New York wants to decommission Indian Point nuclear power plant (2100 MW, base loaded)with a 96.1% capacity factor. Do you think wind is a suitable replacement?

    Japan wants to decommission Fukushima, do you think nuclear is a suitable replacement?

  14. Michael T says:

    NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt gives a talk on this past winter’s Arctic sea ice:

    Gavin Schmidt GISS Lunch Seminar 2011-02-09

  15. Turboblocke says:

    According to DUKES, UK wind operates at about 27% of rated capacity.

    Table 7.4 here

    It’s importent to remember that when wind generation comes on-line, the most expensive = least efficient conventional plant goes off-line, so wind punches above its weight in terms of reducing CO2 emissions.

  16. Paulm says:
    Break through in solar?

    From EarthTechling’s Caleb Denison: Researchers at the University of Michigan have made a scientific discovery that is intriguing all on its own but it is the breakthroughâs potential applications in solar power generation that have them excited.

  17. 44Guyton says:

    Lets all live with beautiful wind turbines in the U.K. and Spain.

    Operates at 27% on AVERAGE? I suppose some American students think a 27% AVERAGE is good.

    But what does Bill Clinton know!