Other stories below: Climate change a fundamental health risk; Falling solar prices good for climate, bad for firms
In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama appealed to Congress for energy legislation. Among the items on his wish list: a clean-energy standard for electricity generation, an energy-efficiency program, clean-energy tax credits, and legal measures to boost domestic oil and gas production.
But with a divided Congress mired in election-year politics, the chances of any energy bills making it to Obama’s desk this year are slim to none, most National Journal Energy and Environment Insiders say.
“The annual Congressional Almanac predicts strong drought conditions through at least November 2012, and that’s not due to climate change either!” joked one Insider.
A whopping 81 percent of Insiders said it is unlikely Congress will send any energy legislation to Obama in 2012. Fifty-two percent said the prospects are “very unlikely,” while 29 percent said they are “somewhat unlikely.”
“Enacting legislation requires some level of concert between the House and Senate, and a working relationship between Congress and the president based on solving problems rather than scoring political points,” said one Insider. “Those conditions don’t exist.”
A leading Australian disease expert says prompt action on climate change is paramount to our survival on earth.
Epidemiologist Tony McMichael has conducted a historical study that suggests natural climate change over thousands of years has destabilised civilisations via food shortages, disease and unrest.
“We haven’t really grasped the fact that a change in climate presents a quite fundamental threat to the foundations of population health,” Professor McMichael, from the Australian National University, said.
“These things have happened before in response to fairly modest changes to climate.
“Let’s be aware that we really must take early action if we are going to maintain this planet as a liveable habitat for humans.”
There is a bright side to the plunge in solar panel prices that has brought down some U.S. and German manufacturers which relied too heavily on subsidies for green energy – solar power costs have fallen faster than anyone thought possible.
The falls in prices for photovoltaic components, pushed down by economies of scale and fierce competition from China, have made solar nearly as cheap as conventional sources in Germany’s electricity grid.
The boom in Germany, the world’s biggest photovoltaic market with 24,000 megawatts of installed capacity, has also helped to drive down costs worldwide, making solar a more viable and accessible alternative to fossil fuels in places ranging from India and the Middle East to Africa and North America.
The day after Crossroads GPS announced an impressive $32.6 million haul in 2011, it is out with a new ad hitting President Barack Obama over his administration’s investment in Solyndra, the failed green energy firm.
“He gave his political backers billions – a big government fiasco- infused with politics at every level,” a woman says over black and white images of bundled cash and men huddled in the Capital.
The ad includes the president talking up green energy, an apparently unemployed man a park bench with his head in his hands, and closes with the female narrator saying, “Laid off worker: forgotten. Typical Washington. Tell President Obama we need jobs not more inside deals.”
The group is spending $500,000 airing the 30-second spot on cable nationwide for a week, including on CNN. It’s the group’s second ad targeting the president for the loss of $535 million taxpayer dollars in the Solyndra investment.
Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4), Brazil’s state-controlled oil producer, shut its fifth most productive well after detecting a leak of 160 barrels in deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Petrobras, as the Rio de Janeiro-based producer is known, spilled oil from the production column at the Carioca Nordeste well before shutting output, the company said today in an e- mailed statement. The well produced 25,034 barrels a day, or 1 percent of Petrobras’ domestic output in November, according to the country’s oil regulator.
Brazil’s oil regulator will carry out an inspection of the Dynamic Producer platform tomorrow, the agency said today in a separate statement. The leak has been halted and the spill is being contained, the regulator said. Petrobras said it is collecting the oil and investigating the causes of the accident.
Tucson Electric Power said Tuesday that it plans to add solar power to a coal- and natural-gas-fired plant in Tucson, Ariz. The Sundt Solar Boost Project, slated to begin operating early next year, will use solar steam generators from Areva Solar to produce as much as 5 megawatts of power during times of peak demand.
Areva Solar, formerly Ausra, uses sun-tracking reflectors to concentrate sunlight and heat water into steam, which in turn spins a turbine to produce electricity. Areva’s concentrating solar power (CSP) technology “gives us a cost-effective, environmentally responsible way to expand the output of our largest local power plant without increasing emissions,” Paul Bonavia, CEO of Tucson Electric Power and its parent company, UniSource Energy Corporation (NYSE: UNS), said in a statement.