June 13 News: Danish Company Eyes US for Wind Turbines; World Bank Says World Should Defund Biofuels

A round-up of the top climate and energy news from around the web. Please post other interesting stories in the comments below.

vestas portlandVestas bullish on building wind turbines in U.S.

The United States is ripe for a boost in wind power that would create domestic manufacturing and maintenance jobs as long as the right policies are adopted, said the chief of Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems, the world’s top supplier of wind turbines.

“The potential over here is enormous,” Ditlev Engel, the president and CEO of Vestas, who visits Washington periodically to meet with lawmakers and others, said in an interview on Wednesday.

Many countries are envious of the United States with its strong wind corridors from South Texas to North Dakota and along the coasts, Engel said.

He said the United States also has lots of available land for wind turbine farms and reliable suppliers.

But first the country has to get serious about improving its aging transmission lines….

Soaring shipping costs due to high oil prices, and the fall in the value of the dollar have made building turbines in the United States cheaper than importing them.

Vestas, which depends on suppliers for much of the 9,000 components it needs for turbines, sees rising costs structures in Asia but steadier ones in the United States, he said.

The company, the No. 2 wind turbine maker in the United States last year behind GE, employs about 3,000 workers in the country, has a big factory in Colorado, and relies on suppliers from 30 U.S. states for the thousands of components.

Scrap biofuel support to curb food costs: agencies

Governments should scrap policies to support biofuels because they are forcing up global food prices, according to a report by 10 international agencies including the World Bank and World Trade Organization.

The report adds to growing opposition to biofuels targets and subsidies such as those in Europe, Canada, India and the United States.

“If oil prices are high and a crop’s value in the energy market exceeds that in the food market, crops will be diverted to the production of biofuels, which will increase the price of food,” said the report.

“Changes in the price of oil can be abrupt and may cause increased food price volatility,” said the report.

Prepared at the request of the Group of 20 major economies, the report addressed price volatility in food and agriculture, and its authors also included experts from the World Food Program, International Monetary Fund, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

An Uphill Battle on Oil Dependency

Tony Knowles helped make Sarah Palin a political celebrity by losing the Alaska governor’s race to her five years ago. Now he is seeking another legacy.

As president of the National Energy Policy Institute, Mr. Knowles aims to kick-start Washington’s stalled dialogue on curbing the nation’s oil habit. But because his potential solutions include higher gas taxes, his odds of success are about the same as defeating Ms. Palin in a publicity contest.

“So many people who care about energy are disappointed or discouraged,” said Mr. Knowles, below, a Democrat. “We just want the debate to start again.”

That’s the bleak landscape facing President Obama on his top unfulfilled policy goal.

He has long advocated sweeping policy changes in the name of energy independence and action against climate change. In his first two years in office, he wanted an economy-wide curb on the carbon dioxide emissions that scientists say fuel global warming.

Even as Mr. Obama won an economic stimulus package, a national health care system and more aggressive Wall Street regulations, that “cap and trade” goal proved elusive. House Democrats passed a version, only to watch it die in the Senate and then lose their majority to Republicans.

In this year’s State of the Union address, Mr. Obama proposed a different approach: a federal standard requiring 80 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from “clean energy” sources by 2035.

Legislators eye W.Va. geothermal potential

A recent study on West Virginia’s geothermal potential had some promising results, and the state’s congressional delegation is eyeing the possibility of a new energy boom.

West Virginia’s vast coal and recently discovered shale gas resources already make the state a fairly powerful player in the energy market, but looking to other energy sources may even further expand that role. Renewable energies are slowly working their way into the state, and federal lawmakers are all looking at the growing industry.

The discovery of vast, previously unknown geothermal potential could double the state’s generating capacity. Scientists at Southern Methodist University’s Geothermal Laboratory found the ground beneath Tucker, Randolph, Pocahontas, and Greenbrier counties is likely viable for geothermal production.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said all renewable energy sources should be explored, particularly those that attract more jobs to West Virginia.

Scientists breed wheat ‘near immune’ to devastating plague

A multinational group of scientists has developed farm-ready wheat resistant to a virulent and devastating plague that has slowly spread from Africa into the Middle East, carrying with it the threat of famine.

Researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico will announce next week that they have developed wheat varieties showing “near immune” resistance to deadly stem rust disease. Once thought as well-conquered as polio, stem rust is known for killing as much as half a harvest.

A mutant strain of the fungus that causes stem rust appeared in Uganda a decade ago, tearing through previously resistant crops. Scientists found that the fungus, Ug99, could infect 90 percent of the world’s wheat, causing a surge of concern from the United States to India. Wheat provides a fifth of the world’s calories; a mass outbreak risked plunging many societies back into hunger, reversing agriculture’s gains in the developing world.

The outlook was grim. Conventional methods of containing the disease failed, most spectacularly several years ago in Kenya, where Ug99 mutants soon overcame an introduced resistance. The fungus spread, appearing in South Africa and Iran. Blowing in the wind, its minute spores dance on the edges of wheat-dependent countries like Egypt and Turkey, threatening their populations with massive crop failure.

Wind Farms Adapt to Forest Conditions

New generations of turbines with higher towers and longer blades are opening up previously impractical sites to development.

As developers look to expand the opportunities available onshore, new generations of turbines with higher towers and longer blades are opening up previously unobtainable sites to development. Here some of the key issues are explored, along with the challenges of an environment that can offer a host of attractive locations.

With more than 27 GW of installed wind capacity, Germany is Europe’s leading wind producer and has plans to increase its capacity further still. Commercial forests in particular offer new potential locations — but what are the challenges faced by operators and investors?

Estimates by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) anticipate installed onshore wind capacity in Europe will increase from the current 83 GW to 190 GW by 2020. As well as producing the lion’s share of renewable energy in Europe, onshore wind will continue to be the most cost-effective of all renewable energy sources.

In Germany, the development of land areas for potential new sites is increasingly focusing on inland southern Germany. Within the scope of option contracts, experts are currently assessing about 100 locations on land owned by the Bavarian state forest enterprise, Bayerische Staatsforsten, for their suitability as wind farm sites. Areas of monoculture forestry, especially, offer the opportunity for profitable and environmentally compatible wind farms.

Overall, the development of onshore wind power continues undiminished across Germany, offering major opportunities for planners, investors and operators. The German government aims to increase electricity from renewable sources to 25%-30% by 2020. The most recent amendment of Germany’s Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) in 2009 further increased feed-in tariffs for wind.

USDA testing climate credits with Iowa, Illinois farmers

With the Obama administration looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Agriculture Department is trying to perfect methods for farmers and landowners to get paid for emission-saving practices.

A $2.8 million project in Iowa and Illinois that the USDA is helping fund will study methods of cutting back on the amount of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, that escapes from farmland as a result of farmers using nitrogen fertilizer. The three-year project will involve 100 farmers who will test several methods for reducing nitrous oxide, including reducing their fertilizer use or using practices that reduce the amount of nitrogen that is washed off of fields or emitted into the air.

The idea of this and similar projects the USDA is funding is to quantify how much greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by various methods and how much farmers and landowners could earn in emission-reduction credits, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Sarah Palin pleaded with Tony Hayward for a BP pipeline

Governor pressed oil boss for investment – a year after his company was responsible for the largest spill in Alaska’s history.

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin held private discussions with Tony Hayward, the discredited BP chief executive, to win his support for a 1,700-mile gas pipeline across North America a year after his company’s failure to maintain another pipeline saw it blamed for the biggest oil spill in the state’s history.

The revelation is contained in emails released from Palin’s time as governor that were made public following freedom of information requests. Palin’s Alaska Gasline Inducement Act was supposed to encourage energy producers to build a multibillion-dollar pipeline to deliver natural gas from Alaska’s North Slope fields to the US. But the energy companies refused to back the plan, believing it was a bad deal.

In June 2007, two months after BP executives first poured cold water on Palin’s bill before an influential Senate hearing, and a year after BP Alaska spilled more than 5,000 barrels of crude oil due to corroded pipes, the confidential emails show Palin was so desperate to talk to Hayward that she readjusted her schedules to take his call.

They reveal that Palin instructed her office to ensure that Hayward had all her private and official phone numbers so the call could proceed after his office asked for it to be rearranged.

EPA chief praises UC Santa Cruz’s work for ‘environmental justice’

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Sunday urged UC Santa Cruz’s College Ten graduates to honor and cultivate their passions and to trust their instincts and experiences.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson — the first African American woman, and the fourth woman, to head the federal agency — said the university’s work to improve the environment is already nationally recognized.

“You are doing your part to make our communities cleaner, healthier and more sustainable,” she said. “At College Ten, you’ve made it your specific mission to focus on social justice. And you’ve learned here that part of social justice involves environmental justice — making sure all Americans receive the same protections that ensure clean water and air and healthy communities.”

The daughter of a New Orleans letter carrier, Jackson told graduates to develop passion, and said her dad’s devotion to his customers was a model for her.

“I used to tell him that I wanted to work at the post office so I could be at the front lines serving my community like him,” Jackson said.

But her parents encouraged her otherwise, and she said she took pre-med classes and a few engineering classes until the Love Canal incident, in which tons of toxic buried by a chemical company near Niagra Falls were discovered in the late 1970s.

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