Energy and global warming news for January 7, 2011: Renewable energy industry shows surprising clout; How will GOP’s House budget affect clean tech?

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"Energy and global warming news for January 7, 2011: Renewable energy industry shows surprising clout; How will GOP’s House budget affect clean tech?"

Renewable energy industry shows surprising clout

Toward the end of September last year, in the midst of Ohio’s heated gubernatorial campaign, Republican candidate John Kasich gave an interview to the Dayton Daily News in which he raised the possibility that as governor he might try to axe the state’s mandate that electric utilities expand their renewable-energy portfolios.

“It will drive up utility bills because we don’t have (energy from renewable sources) ready and have to buy it somewhere else,” he explained. “I don’t like that and you can’t mandate invention.”

In a state that relies on coal for 90 percent of its power “” and whose attention in the campaign was focused on hard economic times, not the complexities of energy policy “” this seemed like an unexceptional comment from a conservative Republican. But it turned out to be quite a shock to many in the state’s growing renewable energy industry.

Ohio’s “renewable portfolio standard,” which originated in the Republican-led state Senate in 2008, requires that 25 percent of Ohio’s energy come from renewable sources by 2025, and that half of that renewable portion be created in-state. Its passage “” along with grants from a state program known as the Ohio Advanced Energy Fund “” essentially jump-started an alternative energy industry in the state.

Already, the impact is visible across Ohio. Farmers, homeowners and small companies put up solar panels and wind turbines; several large-scale renewable projects, including a 12-megawatt solar field in northern Ohio and planning for a 50-megawatt field in the southeast, got underway; wind companies moved ahead with plans for five new wind farms around the state and five turbines in Lake Erie; hundreds of companies either started up or got involved in the manufacturing supply chain for renewable energy; the city of Toledo emerged as a hub for research and manufacturing of thin-film solar cells.

“Folks looking to invest in the renewable energy sector have choices across the country and within the Midwest,” says Nolan Moser, director of energy and clean air programs at the Ohio Environmental Council. “One of the reasons these companies have chosen Ohio has been this policy.”

So two things happened after Kasich’s comments appeared. His opponent, incumbent Democratic Governor Ted Strickland, began traveling around the state with renewable-energy businessmen, hammering Kasich as a threat to clean-energy jobs. And Kasich himself heard from entrepreneurs and others, many of them Republicans, alarmed by his statement.

“Folks in that industry when those comments came out were very vocal, and they encouraged their customers to be vocal as well,” says Chris Montgomery, a lawyer in Columbus who helps run an association of energy firms, Ohio Advanced Energy. “He was receiving comments not just from solar and wind developers, but also word from farmers and businesses and others who’ve benefited from some of these renewable energy projects.”

Within days, Kasich’s campaign was letting it be known that he actually had no intention of repealing the state’s renewable energy standard. “He supports increasing renewable generation in Ohio in a way that expands our energy choices,” his spokesman said.

No one expects Ohio to emerge as a green-energy colossus after Kasich, who went on to win the race, takes office on January 10. As one newspaper reporter in the state says, “You’ve got quite a bit of loud resistance to the idea that we can do anything aside from using the carbon molecule to create energy.” But the fact that a conservative Republican backed so quickly away from angering the renewables industry says a great deal about the politics of state energy policy at the moment “” and not just in Ohio.

How Will G.O.P.’s House Budget Affect Clean Tech?

Taking House Republicans at face value on their pledge to cut 20% of all non-defense discretionary spending, we took a quick look at what cuts might mean for America’s ability to compete in the $2 trillion clean energy market. While there are certainly areas of the nation’s energy budget that should get cut or eliminated, to achieve $100 billion in savings every program — even those that help fuel the economic growth the new majority says it wants — is going to suffer.

Thanks to smart government investments, many clean energy businesses are getting off the ground or expanding in the U.S. This means new jobs created by Dow at a battery plant in Michigan, by Nissan for electric vehicles in Tennessee or Southern Company to build a new nuclear reactor in Georgia.

So what might a 20% chop look like?

- A $1.6 billion cut in the federal loan guarantee program would potentially cripple the much-needed nuclear renaissance at a time when China is planning a five-fold expansion over the next decade. Without loan guarantees, it’s unlikely we’d be building first nuclear power plant in the US in almost 30 years, and creating as many as 3,500 jobs, in Georgia today.– $60 million less for ARPA-E’s already meager $300 million budget, gutting funding for advanced energy storage, next generation nuclear power and micro-battery technology that could also be used by the US military.

– Eliminating almost $500 million in grants to companies innovating in renewable energy, advanced vehicle technology, and battery storage. This could kill emerging clean energy businesses that have the potential to become the 21st century’s Google, General Electric or Exxon.

– Slicing $20 million from R&D investments to schools like Purdue University, Penn State, University of Wisconsin, and Iowa State University, which are developing the next generation of innovators and ideas that could spawn new businesses and jobs across the U.S.

Boxer takes shot at GOP agenda

Sen. Barbara Boxer took a first swing Thursday at her new House counterpart on environmental issues, calling out Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton over his plans to stymie the Obama administration’s global warming and air pollution rules.

The Environment and Public Works Committee chairwoman joined the chorus of Senate Democrats who have quickly criticized the House GOP majority as it targets rules covering everything from health care to the environment.

“I believe what Chairman Upton has indicated he wants to do, which is essentially stop all progress on this front, is against the law,” Boxer (D-Calif.) told reporters.

Boxer said she’d use press conferences and other public forums to highlight the potential political peril for Republicans who go after the Environmental Protection Agency’s rules that are directly tied to protecting public health.

“I want to tell him that I will use every single tool available to me as chairman of this committee and as a senator from California to oppose any legislative efforts that threatens the health or the safety or the well being of the people of this great nation,” she said.

Upton is planning an early series of hearings on the Obama EPA rules that target power plants, petroleum refiners and other major stationary industrial sources. He’s also said he’s considering legislation that would stop the agency’s efforts until a series of lawsuits have been resolved.

Other ideas are also on the table to stop EPA.

Should we get rid of all energy subsidies?

Should the U.S. get rid of energy subsidies altogether?

In a new piece for Washington Monthly, Jeffrey Leonard argues just that: “Get the Energy Sector off the Dole.” Amory Lovins argued something similar in The Weekly Standard in past October. Way back in 2002, Ed Crane (head of the libertarian Cato Institute) and Carl Pope (then head of the Sierra Club) made the same argument in a Washington Post op-ed.

So, is it a good idea? Today I want look to at the question from a policy angle. Tomorrow I’ll get into the politics.

Can government get out of the energy game?

The intuitive appeal of a subsidy-free market is that energy technologies would compete in a pure meritocracy — a “level playing field,” as pols are fond of saying. Success would be determined by the aggregate distributed decisionmaking of market actors rather than the whims of bureaucrats. A proper market at last, hallelu.

But you don’t have to tug on that string very long before you end up with a whole armful of yarn. Leonard cites $20 billion a year in U.S. energy subsidies, but there is heated disagreement about that figure, mainly because no two people agree exactly what qualifies as a market-distorting subsidy. Obviously cash. Tax breaks, credits, and write-offs, sure. After that it gets a bit fuzzy.

Republicans introduce bill to eliminate presidential ‘czars’

A group of House Republicans introduced a bill on Wednesday to rein in the various “czars” in the Obama administration.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and 28 other House Republicans introduced legislation to do away with the informal, paid advisers President Obama has employed over the past two years.

The legislation, which was introduced in the last Congress but was not allowed to advance under Democratic control, would do away with the 39 czars Obama has employed during his administration.

The bill defines a czar as “a head of any task force, council, policy office within the Executive Office of the President, or similar office established by or at the direction of the President” who is appointed to a position that would otherwise require Senate confirmation.

Republicans had complained about the president’s use of czars to help advance his agenda in Congress. In particular, the GOP had harped about the personal history of Van Jones, the president’s czar for “green jobs,” over past comments Jones had made about Fox News came to light. Jones eventually resigned.

Another prominent czar over the past year was Carol Browner, the president’s energy and environmental adviser. She helped head up efforts in response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and the ultimately unsuccessful effort for an energy and climate bill from Congress.

Gulf oil spill report stirs talk of legislation

A major report on the BP oil spill coupled with jitters about rising gas prices are reviving talk in the Senate of tackling spill response and energy legislation.

The oil spill commission released a chapter of its final report Wednesday. The full report will be released next week. The report blamed a “failure of management” by BP and the other companies involved in the construction and operation of the Macondo well for the spill.

But before a bill can move forward, one major issue has to be resolved: liability. Drill-state lawmakers have locked horns with anti-drilling Democrats over the issue of exactly what portion of the damages from an oil spill the responsible party must pay.

Under current law, that number is capped at $75 million (BP has said it will go beyond that cap if necessary). Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, both New Jersey Democrats, as well as Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and others have argued that companies responsible for a spill should pay 100 percent of the damages. Menendez is using the oil spill commission’s report, which found “systemic” problems in the oil industry, to gain traction for a bill that would remove the $75 million cap.

But Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) argue for a mechanism to share liability between the responsible party and the oil industry as a whole in order to prevent companies from having to shoulder multi-billion dollar bills.

Last year, attempts to pass an oil spill response bill in the Senate petered out, largely over disagreements about liability. The key lawmakers involved in the issue continue to discuss a potential compromise.

House Republicans seek to limit EPA climate rules

The 112th Congress has just begun, and so have the attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases.

Three Republican House members — Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Shelley Moore Capito (W. Va.) and Ted Poe (Tex.) have each introduced separate bills aimed at blocking EPA from regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

The three measures hamstring the agency’s authority in different ways: Blackburn’s would “amend the Clean Air Act to provide that greenhouse gases are not subject to the Act,” even though the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that they are; Capito’s would delay EPA from regulating carbon dioxide and methane for two years; and Poe’s would prohibit any agency funding “to be used to implement or enforce a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases.”

While Capito’s bill is the most modest of the bunch, the West Virginia lawmaker explained in a statement that she has introduced a more limited bill because she thinks it has enough votes to pass and block initiatives such as new EPA permitting requirements that now require major new greenhouse gas emitters to show how they would use the best available current technology to lower their carbon footprint.

“Time is of the essence,” she said. “The Democrats failed to act in any way to stop the EPA from implementing new rules pertaining to greenhouse gas emissions on January 2, 2011.Without congressional action to say otherwise, the EPA will continue to dismantle energy and manufacturing industries through regulation.”

Franz Matzner, climate and air legislative director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group, decried the move.

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26 Responses to Energy and global warming news for January 7, 2011: Renewable energy industry shows surprising clout; How will GOP’s House budget affect clean tech?

  1. Lionel A says:

    I dont know if anybody else has picked up on the rash of mass animal die offs across the globe in the last several days:

    Google Map , you may have to use Firefox to display the hotspot indicators as IE didn’t hack it.

    Strange. Just tried again in IE and it works, maybe Firefox loaded a local cache. Dunno?

  2. catman306 says:

    Plulution – n. unregulated pollution allowed and sometimes encouraged by the inaction of governmental regulatory agencies heavily influenced by the status quo plutocracy and their lobbyists.

    Plulution weakens, sickens, and occasionally kills every living thing.

    The E.P.A. stands between the American people and a deadly flood of plulution.

    Fight plulution! Support the E.P.A.

    (If you’re going to conflate, conflate big! – see Chicken Little cartoon)

  3. So what might a 20% chop look like?
    - A $1.6 billion cut in the federal loan guarantee program would potentially cripple the much-needed nuclear renaissance

    Sounds good to me. We would take a large step toward a sensible energy policy if they also cut funding for clean coal and crippled that industry.

  4. Colorado Bob says:

    South Africa flooding leaves 50 dead, hundreds homeless

    Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) — Heavy flooding has left at least 50 people dead and hundreds homeless in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province as residents continue to battle adverse weather conditions that have plagued the country since mid-December, authorities said Friday.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/01/07/south.africa.flooding/

  5. Prokaryotes says:

    HHS and EPA will recommend lower fluoride levels in water supply

    The Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that they will recommend lowering the amount of fluoride in public water supplies because most people are now getting large quantities of the protective agent from other sources, including toothpaste, mouthwashes, prescription supplements and fluoride applied by dental professionals. As a consequence, some children’s teeth are becoming mottled because of overexposure to fluoride. The agency will recommend that public health authorities add only 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water to water supplies, which is the bottom end of the currently acceptable range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter.

    Despite the objections of a few crazies who have claimed that fluoridation represents a plot by the government to control their minds, the addition of fluoride to water beginning in the 1940s has been recognized as one of the great public health measures of the 20th century, markedly reducing cavities, especially in children. http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-fluoridated-water-0107-2011,0,1282084.story

    Health Ministry figures again show fluoridation pointless
    Friday, 7 January 2011, 1:05 pm
    Press Release: Fluoride Action Network

    Health Ministry figures again show fluoridation pointless

    The 2009 school dental statistics have been released by the Ministry of Health. “As in 2008, these show no real benefit from fluoridation, but that socioeconomic (SE) status (decile) is the main factor in tooth decay says Mark Atkin, spokesperson for health activist organisation Fluoride Action Network NZ. Yet remarkably, low decile Counties Manukau shows less decay in the un fluoridated children. “So much for fluoridation helping the poor!” adds Mr Atkin. Once again the Ministry claims total figures, unadjusted for SE status, as showing around 30% benefit for 11-12 years olds. But splitting these between higher and lower SE areas shows no statistically significant difference in DMFT (tooth decay, mainly number of fillings) or percent of children without any decay for the high decile areas. Even in the low decile areas, the claimed benefit (1/5 th of a filling, and 3% extra caries-free children) is within fluctuations since 2000. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/GE1101/S00003/health-ministry-figures-again-show-fluoridation-pointless.htm

    Fluoride means lower IQs and more mental retardation

    (NaturalNews) Researchers recently looked at the IQs of 512 Chinese grade-schoolers from two otherwise similar villages, except for the amount of fluoride they were drinking in their water. In the village with high fluoride in their water, the children were less intelligent – and far more apt to be mentally retarded – than the children from the village with low fluoride in the water. Actually, the children drinking less fluoride had about half the fluoride in their blood – and on average, an IQ about 8 points higher. http://www.naturalnews.com/030928_fluoride_mental_retardation.html

    Elemental Depth Profiling of Fluoridated Hydroxyapatite: Saving Your Dentition by the Skin of Your Teeth?

    Structural and chemical changes that arise from fluoridation of hydroxyapatite (Ca5(PO4)3OH or “HAp”), as representing the synthetic counterpart of tooth enamel, are investigated by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Elemental depth profiles with a depth resolution on the nanometer scale were determined to reveal the effect of fluoridation in neutral (pH = 6.2) and acidic agents (pH = 4.2). With respect to the chemical composition and the crystal structure, XPS depth profiling reveals different effects of the two treatments. In both cases, however, the fluoridation affects the surface only on the nanometer scale, which is in contrast to recent literature with respect to XPS analysis on dental fluoridation, where depth profiles of F extending to several micrometers were reported. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/la102325e?journalCode=langd5

  6. paulm says:

    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1722
    Globe’s coral reefs take second worst beating on record during 2010

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    MANILA, Philippines – The massive flooding and a series of landslides in the Bicol region, Visayas, and Mindanao continue to wreak havoc in 24 provinces, with the number of displaced people reaching 684,153 while the death toll has increased to 29 as of Friday morning, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported.

    http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/297230/floods-landslides-displace-684153-persons-bicol-visayas-and-mindanao

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    Great Barrier Reef among the Australian flood victims
    ‘Really massive event … has the potential to shift the food web,’ expert says

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40953152/ns/world_news-world_environment/

  9. DaveE says:

    How about a 40% chop in the DEFENSE budget? We would still be spending over 4 times as much as any other nation in the world on defense. Defense spending largely did in the USSR–it may do the same for us.

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    Climate Shifts Changing New Weather “Normals”

    As the new decade opens up, researchers are gathering data that will redefine weather pattern averages for the nation

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=climate-shifts-changing-new-weather

  11. Colorado Bob says:

    Mozambique expects worst floods in 10 years

    Mozambique’s meteorological institute measured almost 100 millimeters of rain at Maputo international airport on January 5, twice the amount used to classify strong rains.

    Mozambique’s average yearly precipitation is 500 millimeters.

    http://www.africasia.com/services/news_africa/article.php?ID=CNG.647fddf11769518e7f98cb7fa868207d.b81

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    New research indicates the impact of rising CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere will cause unstoppable effects to the climate for at least the next 1000 years, causing researchers to estimate a collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet by the year 3000, and an eventual rise in the global sea level of at least four metres.

    The study, to be published next week, is the first full climate model simulation to make predictions out to 1000 years from now.

    http://www.clickgreen.org.uk/opinion/opinion/121749-%E2%80%9Cunstoppable-effects%E2%80%9D-of-climate-change-will-last-for-1,000-years.html

  13. fj3 says:

    RT @columbiawater: Climate Change: The future of Pine Island Glacier – not bright http://bit.ly/g108Iq

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    At Koblenz, Germany, the city where the Moselle flows into the Rhine, officials said they feared the combined high water of both rivers might create the city’s worst flood in 10 years.

    Forecasters said western Europe’s snow cover was likely to melt fast with several days of steady rain coming up.

    http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/news/361247,europe-stands-by-for-floods-as-masses-of-snow-melted.html

  15. catman306 says:

    Colorado Bob, ‘Climate Shifts Changing New Weather “Normals”’

    Interesting, because the ‘normals’ will be determined statistically and should take a few years of data to develop. How can one derive predictive statistics about a complex system, with a myriad of variables, that has gone chaotic (non-linear)?

    Except, of course, in the most general sort of way: “It will be warmer in the summer than in the winter.”

  16. David B. Benson says:

    DaveE @9 — How about an 80% cut in the DoD budget?

    Remember what President Eisenhower said…

  17. Prokaryotes says:

    Re paulm,

    Utility-scale wind turbine generators have minimum temperature operating limits which apply in areas that experience temperatures below –20 °C. Wind turbines must be protected from ice accumulation, which can make anemometer readings inaccurate and which can cause high structure loads and damage. Some turbine manufacturers offer low-temperature packages at a few percent extra cost, which include internal heaters, different lubricants, and different alloys for structural elements. If the low-temperature interval is combined with a low-wind condition, the wind turbine will require an external supply of power, equivalent to a few percent of its rated power, for internal heating. For example, the St. Leon, Manitoba project has a total rating of 99 MW and is estimated to need up to 3 MW (around 3% of capacity) of station service power a few days a year for temperatures down to –30 °C. This factor affects the economics of wind turbine operation in cold climates. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_turbine_design#Blades

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    David B. Benson, you’re on the button. Despite being threatened by no-one, with friendly neighbours to north and south and impenetrable moats to east and west, the US spends one trillion a year, occupies a number of countries, directly or through venal proxies, and maintains an archipelago of hundreds of bases. The USSR did collapse partly because of military over-spending but they were invaded twice last century, the second time suffering the greatest civilian death-toll and material damage in history. They had a valid excuse, the USA has none. The 800 billion a year saved by your recommendation would revolutionise the science and technology of human sustainability.

  19. Dick Veldkamp says:

    #18 PaulM

    The Daily Mail article is the usual anti wind energy rubbish.
    1. Taken over larger areas, wind power is in fact remarkably slowly varying, see for example here (Spain): https://demanda.ree.es/demandaGeneracionAreasEng.html [Incidentally: power from wind today (Jan 8 ) is a third (!!!!) of total demand.]
    What’s more the wind can be fairly well predicted over the next 24h or so, so you can plan the use of other power stations. Also, wind will always be used in combination with other energy sources. Especially hydropower is perfect.

    2. The claim that wind turbines produce on average only 30% of maximum power is -while true- rather misleading. The choice of maximum capacity against average capacity is just a matter of economic optimisation. The number 30% (or so) gives the lower kWh costs. You might as well get angry that the average speed of your car is only 3 mph, while your speedometer clearly says it can do 150 mph! Go back to your dealer an tell him: “What’s this? On average my car only works at 2%!”

  20. Dick Veldkamp says:

    In my previous comment: I don’t know where that smiley comes from, but it should read “January 8th”.

    [JR: Smiley is 8 + ) = 8) ]

  21. Just in via CO2now.org: 2010 average CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa was 389.78 ppm, up 2.43 ppm from 2009, charging away from safe 350 ppm: http://bit.ly/AnnCO2

  22. David B. Benson says:

    Mulga Mumblebrain — Convince your congresscritters and convince lotsa voters to convince theirs.

    By the way, where did the figure of $1000 billion come from? Seems too high to me.

  23. David B. Benson says:

    Dick Veldkamp — Tier I wind turbine sites typically only have wind strong enough to generate about 1/3rd of the time leading to a capacity factor (CF) of around 30%. That is, to obtain an average, multiply each generator’s nameplate rating by 0.3.

    I found this IEA Wind Power Study
    http://www.vtt.fi/inf/pdf/tiedotteet/2009/T2493.pdf
    highly informative.

  24. Solar Jim says:

    “Leonard cites $20 billion a year in U.S. energy subsidies, but there is heated disagreement about that figure, mainly because no two people agree exactly what qualifies as a market-distorting subsidy. Obviously cash. Tax breaks, credits, and write-offs, sure. After that it gets a bit fuzzy.”

    Does the author refer to costs if we include one trillion dollars for annual health damage associated with fuels, or military invasions for (not WMD) oil, or the cost of the interstate highway system that included the dismantlement of tens of thousands of miles of urban rail and interstate passenger service?

    What is the economy anyway? Lately it seems to be a gamed system (i.e. racket) based on illness, elitism and ecocide. Storms are coming, you can count your money and narrow subsidy measurements, while sustenance washes away. Rockefeller said the meek shall inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights. This seems to be the case, a climate destabilized and impoverished earth, the ultimate subsidy.