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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

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"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"

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Fossil Fuel Subsidies Are 12 Times Support for Renewables, Study Shows

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.

Chamber of Commerce Goes After Climate Dissenters In Its Ranks

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.

Ten Fights on Global Warming Now That the Senate Will Do Nothing

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.

Obama: Smart investments will help economy

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.”

For Clean Power and Not-So, New Midwest Lines

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.

EPA hears from industry, environmental groups and residents at session on Barnett Shale drilling

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.

Rand Paul: Government should not regulate mine industry

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.”

Methane Monitors Weren’t Disabled, Massey Says

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:

US says it’s committed to cutting greenhouse gases

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.

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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

  1. homunq says:

    “The letter, written by US Chamber board member Winthrop Hallett,…”

    Actually, he signs it “Winthrop J. Hallet III”. Perhaps that reveals something of his character and his motivation in this case. (More bad guys straight out of Dickens…)

  2. “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.”

    That’s the part that leaves me without hope. Is this serious? We’re facing the extinction of the human race and nearly all life on Earth, and these spineless tools are only willing to cut emissions by 17 percent?!

    Just great. Now instead of driving a car off the cliff at 90mph….we’re driving off a cliff at 75mph. This is mass suicide.

    These Democrats have absolutely no interest in offending their wealthy benefactors. They have no stomach for standing up to Republicans. And they have no spine for telling the American people what sacrifices are really needed. The status quo and this disposable culture are sacred, and nobody will be allowed to touch it.

    Nobody in charge is behaving as though they believe global warming is a serious threat. Then again, maybe they really do believe the evidence, but they’re not willing to upset their weatlthy owners.

    Just wait until the Republicans win the November elections. At least the inevitable impeachment farce will be entertaining to watch.

  3. Prokaryotes says:

    Con: Don’t push climate change past the tipping point

    Texas has a saying, “Don’t mess with Texas,” that started as an anti-litter campaign. So why are Texas oil companies Valero and Tesoro messing with California’s goal to cut pollution? As key funders of the Dirty Oil Initiative set for the ballot in November (misleadingly called the “Jobs Initiative”), their goal is to suspend AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, just when it is about to be more broadly implemented, until the state’s jobless rate lowers to 5.5 percent for a straight year. http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/aug/01/con-dont-push-climate-change-past-tipping-point/

  4. Prokaryotes says:

    Smoke over Western Russia

    Hundreds of fires burned across western Russia on August 2, 2010, but it is the smoke that conveys the magnitude of the disaster in this true-color image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Dense gray-brown smoke extends across the width of this image, a distance of about 1,700 kilometers (1,000 miles). The smoke clearly continues both east and west beyond the edge of the image, and is visible in both previous and successive orbits of the Terra satellite. The smoke is so thick that it is not possible to see the ground beneath it. http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_1729.html

  5. Lindsey Campbell says:

    In reference to your “Ten Fights on Global Warming” section, I recently found this article from the Centre Daily Times that goes into why renewable energy is being ignored in favor of Big Oil. It also goes into why policymakers have largely ignored pleas to prevent the United States — which pioneered wind technologies — from falling behind competitors in Europe and China.

    Check out the article: http://www.centredaily.com/2010/08/02/2126506/winds-of-change-must-begin-to.html

  6. There are some serious issues with the Bloomberg study on subsidies. First, they don’t seem to report subsidies per dollar produced, which is a different (and more commonly used) way to compare subsidies. It’s not clear exactly what comparing aggregate subsidies is supposed to mean. Second, they seem to be comparing very different kinds of subsidies without being clear about what’s what (price controls or price subsidies for gasoline in Iran, for example, with renewable energy subsidies in the US). Third, there are some big omissions in what’s counted in the study. Finally, the way the numbers are presented in the news release for the Bloomberg report does not really make clear why we might want to subsidize some technologies and not others. The case for subsidizing established technologies is weak, but not all new technologies are worthy of subsidy either, and lumping conventional ethanol subsidies (which are demonstrably dumb) with wind subsidies (which have served an important purpose but probably should be phased out in the medium term) with solar subsidies (which are supporting a much less mature industry than wind and thus should continue for awhile) is not a good way to report the numbers.

    Check out some of the readers’ comments on the dot earth blog for clear statements of some of the issues. There’s one particularly good one from a gentleman in Paris, Ron Steenblik #26 (who probably works for the IEA and really understands this stuff) who describes what in and out of these calculations

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/alls-not-fair-when-it-comes-to-energy-subsidies/

    Bottom line: The subsidy issue is a complicated one. There’s some rationale for understanding and comparing the aggregate statistics on subsidies, but it needs to be done carefully and with a clear eye towards making consistent comparisons. It appears that this new study is less than careful in this regard, so caveat emptor.

    [JR: Thanks!]

  7. Regarding Matt Wald’s NYT article on how new transmission lines may carry lots of coal-fired electricity (“For Clean Power and Not-So, New Midwest Lines”), we have a response on our Into the Wind blog today that explains why we doubt it: http://www.awea.org/blog/index.php?mode=viewid&post_id=439

  8. Hey Tom Gray,

    Long time no talk. I read the wind blog, and it makes a good case. One tidbit that may be useful for future releases: We (50+ of Art Rosenfeld’s friends and colleagues, including Joe) wrote a nice peer reviewed journal article in the open access journal Environmental Research Letters that defines a standard coal plant. We did it for purposes of standardizing energy savings results, but you could use it for summarizing the effects of wind scenarios in blog postings like the one you list above.

    Download it at:
    Koomey, Jonathan, Hashem Akbari, Carl Blumstein, Marilyn Brown, Richard Brown, Chris Calwell, Sheryl Carter, Ralph Cavanagh, Audrey Chang, David Claridge, Paul Craig, Rick Diamond, Joseph H. Eto, William Fulkerson, Ashok Gadgil, Howard Geller, José Goldemberg, Chuck Goldman, David B. Goldstein, Steve Greenberg, David Hafemeister, Jeff Harris, Hal Harvey, Eric Heitz, Eric Hirst, Holmes Hummel, Dan Kammen, Henry Kelly, Skip Laitner, Mark Levine, Amory Lovins, Gil Masters, James E. McMahon, Alan Meier, Michael Messenger, John Millhone, Evan Mills, Steve Nadel, Bruce Nordman, Lynn Price, Joe Romm, Marc Ross, Michael Rufo, Jayant Sathaye, Lee Schipper, Stephen H. Schneider, James L. Sweeney, Malcolm Verdict, Diana Vorsatz, Devra Wang, Carl Weinberg, Richard Wilk, John Wilson, and Ernst Worrell. 2010. “Defining a standard metric for electricity savings.” Environmental Research Letters. vol. 5 014017, no. 1 January-March.

  9. malcreado says:

    I wonder if Rand Paul likes the government imposing Liability Award Caps on businesses.

  10. Chris Winter says:

    “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.”

    Personally, I would have named it “Chambers for Renewable Energy Development” — CRED.

    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.

    Yes it does. Praises be!

  11. Spanish National Meteorogical Agency: Under a “medium emissions” scenario, Spain would get 3-6C (5-11 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter and lose 70-85% of its rainfall this century: http://bit.ly/Spa2100

  12. Massey’s been getting away with murder for way too long. It’s time that we demand an end to the madness
    Join us on September 25-7 in Washington, D.C. at Appalachia Rising, a mass mobilization calling for the abolition of mountaintop removal and surface mining. Appalachia Rising is is a national response to the poisoning of America’s water supply, the destruction of Appalachia’s mountains, head water source streams, and communities through mountaintop removal coal mining. It follows a long history of social action for a just and sustainable Appalachia.
    Appalachia Rising strives to unite coalfield residents, grass roots groups, individuals, and national organizations to call for the abolition of mountaintop removal coal mining and demand that America’s water be protected from all forms of surface mining.

    Appalachia Rising will consist of two events. First, the weekend conference, Sept. 25-26, Appalachia Rising, Voices from the Mountains will provide an opportunity to build or join the movement for justice in Appalachia through strategy discussions and share knowledge across regional and generational lines. The second event on Monday, Sept.27, is the Appalachia Rising Day of Action which will unify thousands in calling for an end to mountaintop removal and all forms of steep slope surface mining though a vibrant march and rally. An act of dignified non-violent civil disobedience will be possible for those who wish to express themselves by risking arrest.

    For more info, visit appalachiarising.org

  13. Chad says:

    Joe, you are vastly under-estimating the subsidies lavished on fossil fuels. Their biggest subsidies are not tax breaks or direct cash handouts, but rather the free public garbage dumping priveleges they are afforded. From the estimates I have seen, are probably around a trillion dollars per year or so. Forcing them to compensate their neighbors and the general public for all the damage they cause would force much of the industry to shut down immediately, particularly the coal industry.

  14. @Chad, good point. One data point on fossil fuel subsidies is last year’s National Academy of Sciences study. More info at http://awea.org/pubs/factsheets/NAS_Hidden_Costs_of_Energy.pdf

    Regards,
    Tom

  15. Prokaryotes says:

    Also on Monday, there was a large fire at an oil site near Westby. http://www.willistonherald.com/articles/2010/08/03/opinion/editorials/doc4c583d1a39bdc033630928.txt

  16. Prokaryotes says:

    Overseas Frustration Grows Over U.S. Domestic Impasse on Climate Policy http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2010/08/03/03climatewire-overseas-frustration-grows-over-us-domestic-61456.html

    And nobody cares – like if a sack of rice fell over.

  17. Prokaryotes says:

    Who needs rice anyway?

    Tungro virus hits Negros Oriental rice fields http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/08/03/10/tungro-virus-hits-negros-oriental-rice-fields

  18. Prokaryotes says:

    Crop-Killing Beetles Found at Bush Airport

    HOUSTON – Customs and Border Protection officials intercepted a group of beetles at Bush Intercontinental Airport – and no, it wasn’t the band.

    Khapra Beetle larvae were found inside bag of rice brought in from Saudi Arabia.

    The Khapra Beetle is considered one of the world’s most destructive pests of grain products and seeds, according to a CBP statement. http://www.myfoxhouston.com/dpp/news/local/100803-crop-killing-beetles-found-at-bush-airport

    Something else which comes from Saudi Arabia is oil – which is even more destructive (long term) when burned.

  19. Prokaryotes says:

    How does the gasoline additive MTBE contaminate our water and cause health problems?

    Suggestions for reading about methyl tert-butly ether (MTBE), one of a group of volatile organic chemicals used as solvents, fuel additives, fuels, and disinfection byproducts http://www.usgs.gov/faq/index.php?action=artikel&cat=104&id=640&artlang=en

  20. Prokaryotes says:

    Mysterious Plague Killing Off Bats, Bugs Get Free Rein
    Experts Don’t Know How To Stop Spread of Deadly Fungus
    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/white-nosed-syndrome-killing-bats-huge-numbers/story?id=11199626

  21. Mike says:

    EPA left to pick up climate change where Congress dropped the debate

    By David A. Fahrenthold and Juliet Eilperin
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    The Obama administration told Congress to find a way to regulate greenhouse gases — or else. Last month, Congress refused: Democratic leaders in the Senate declined to take up climate legislation before their August break, which means it looks effectively dead for this session.

    Now the White House is stuck with “or else.”

    The Environmental Protection Agency will soon begin regulating greenhouse gases factory by factory, power plant by power plant. That could be unwieldy, expensive and unpopular — even President Obama has said it’s not his preferred solution.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/03/AR2010080306366.html?hpid=moreheadlines

  22. catman306 says:

    I don’t have a link but just discovered that lawn treatments, fertilizer and pesticides, produce volatile organic compounds (VOC). These VOCs produce ozone as they break down. I had googled for lawn treatment health problems

    On windless day, 90 F, with extremely high humidity, people I know had their typical, suburban lawn treated by one of the commercial outfits. That night, it drizzled, still not even a slight breeze 80 F. At 3 am all the smoke/CO2 alarms started to sound, but there was no smoke, no fire, no gas leak, and everyone had a hard time rousing, feeling dizzy and disoriented. We surmise that because of the atmospheric conditions, VOCs rose to hazardous levels around the house and settled into the interior. The alarms quite possible saved their lives.

    Ozone levels, common in our national atmosphere, decrease plant productivity by 20%. Our environment is only 80% effective at converting sunlight to food energy this year. But that’s without the droughts and floods. Higher ozone levels can only kill more of our environment.

    Pesticides, fertilizers and combination lawn treatments contribute to the problem.