Energy and Global Warming News for February 4: To get clean energy, upgrade to Electricity 2.0; Germanys Solar-Energy Industry Predicts 44% Cut in Power Price; Rep. Barton earned $100K from gas investment

To get clean energy, upgrade to Electricity 2.0

While clean energy has captured the imagination of everyone from Silicon Valley venture capitalists to President Obama, it has yet to fulfill its job-creation promise. Non-hydro renewable power accounts for just 3.5 percent of electricity in the United States, compared with 28 percent in Denmark, a leader in the transition to renewable energy. In a study released today, I examine why progress has been so slow in the electricity industry — the network at the center of the wider energy network. The answer turns out to be that our highly regulated system, uniquely complex by global standards, is blocking progress.

Put simply, only by upgrading from Electricity 1.0 — the closed, highly regulated network created a century ago — to Electricity 2.0 — an open, distributed network — can America unlock the potential of clean technology and experience a renewable energy revolution.

It is often said that an inadequate electric grid is slowing the rollout of clean renewable energy. But why is the grid inadequate? Because the regulatory regime of Electricity 1.0 guarantees the current state of affairs. While the industry research consortium, Electric Power Research Institute, has done an outstanding job in improving the reliability of the network, utilities do virtually no research and development. Laws bar them from trying new business models, innovating and taking risks. This bias against innovation prevents utilities from purchasing technologies developed by others. Thus, entrepreneurs find the gates of the network closed. It should not be surprising that a highly regulated industry cannot lead a revolution.


So, how can America upgrade to Electricity 2.0? As with telecom reform, Electricity 2.0 will require nothing less than a Big Bang that includes federal legislation as well as close cooperation with the states to harmonize rules of the road. Partial reform, such as has taken place in Texas and California, is a start, but it is not enough. What’s needed is an entirely new plug-and-play architecture that opens the grid to everyone, making connection the norm not the exception.

And then we have this bombshell about ‘Smokey Joe’ Barton who thinks Global Warming ‘Is A Net Benefit To Mankind’ and who loves TVMOB aka Lord “Hitler Youth” Monckton (see Rep. Barton: Climate change is ‘natural,’ humans should just ‘get shade’ “” invites ‘expert’ TVMOB (!) to testify).Barton earned $100K from gas investment

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) has earned nearly $100,000 from an investment in natural gas wells that he purchased from a longtime campaign donor who also advised the congressman on energy policy, according to interviews and records.

Amid talks on a sweeping energy bill that would boost demand for natural gas, Barton’s interest could become controversial. Congressional experts say such deals raise ethical questions for lawmakers, who are expected by the public to maintain a divide between their personal finances and official duties.

Land records show that Barton purchased his interest from Walter Mize, a Cleburne businessman who donated more than $30,000 to Barton’s campaigns. There is no law or prohibition against going into business with campaign donors or lobbyists, according to Stanley Brand, an ethics lawyer in Washington, D.C., and former House general counsel.

However, on a 2008 House financial disclosure form, Barton indicated that he purchased his interest from EOG Resources Inc., the fourth-largest gas producer in the Barnett Shale, rather than from Mize.

“That might be a deficiency in the filing,” Brand said. House members can be fined up to $11,000 for such errors, but prosecutors must prove that the lawmaker “knowingly and willfully” falsified a portion of a report, he said.

Barton said his investment is legal and was publicly reported in accordance with federal law and ethics rules.

His exact costs are not documented by a 2008 House financial disclosure report, and whether Barton paid market value could not be independently verified.

Mize, who died in 2008, urged Barton to create a federal oil and gas research program that was included in a 2005 energy law.

A longtime proponent of domestic oil and natural gas production, Barton said his investment does not conflict with his legislative responsibilities.

“I don’t think my position on any pending issue is going to be affected by me investing in an oil and gas opportunity as long as it’s done straight up and reported — with my own money at risk,” Barton said

Germany’s Solar-Energy Industry Predicts 44% Cut in Power Price

Germany’s solar industry said the government’s proposed price cuts for electricity generated from the sun may reach 44 percent when combined with reductions already written into law.

The price per kilowatt hour of solar power generated with photovoltaic panels could fall by almost half over a one-year period through 2011 should the government go ahead with a proposal to slash rates by April, said Carsten Koernig, head of the Berlin-based BSW, in an e-mailed statement.

About 20,000 workers from companies including Solarworld AG and Q-Cells SE that make solar-power panels and control systems demonstrated against Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen’s planned cuts, the BSW industry lobby group said today. Germany’s renewable energy law, which Roettgen is attempting to change, already includes annual reductions in so-called feed-in tariffs.

The industry’s 60,000 jobs, many of them in the poorer eastern part of the country, are at risk, as well as Germany’s “leadership role” in climate protection, said Koernig.

For Hawaii, big push to go green is natural

Take a ride in Ron Baird’s pickup truck along the volcanic shore of Hawaii’s Big Island and he’ll show you an inventor’s wonderland.

On one parcel of this government-created energy laboratory, rows of mirrors shine white-hot in the sun, turning heat into energy. On another, brown water tanks harbor strands of algae that will be made into fuel. Nearby is a wind turbine whose blades spin parallel to the ground.

“It’s an awesome amount of things going on here,” said Baird, chief executive of Natural Energy Research Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, which is helping to nurture 42 green private-sector businesses on 877 acres of land in Kona.

Watch out, California.

Tiny Hawaii is gunning for the title of the nation’s green energy capital. It’s aiming to obtain 70% of its total energy needs from clean sources within 20 years.

That ambitious target blows the solar panels off California’s mandate to get a third of its electricity from renewables by 2020. But Hawaiian officials have concluded their state has little choice.

This tropical paradise is an energy beggar that depends almost solely on oil to fuel its vehicles and stoke its power plants. That’s left the state, which doesn’t produce a drop of crude, vulnerable to spills, price swings and geopolitics. Hawaii residents already pay the highest pump prices and electricity rates in the country. The state imports around 51 million barrels of oil, costing billions annually, according to government figures.

“We really are the canary in the coal mine,” said Jeff Kissel, chief executive of the Gas Co. of Hawaii. “What’s happening to us with oil is going to happen to the rest of the country as . . . supplies diminish.”

More worrisome still is global warming. The threat of rising seas and pounding storms linked to climate change has put Hawaii on a collision course with Mother Nature.

Although Hawaii’s efforts to green itself won’t make much of a dent in the world’s total carbon emissions, environmentalists hope the state can prove what’s possible. The goal is to transform the nation’s most energy-dependent state into its cleanest and most sustainable.

Chinese bank offers $7B loan for Calif.-Nev. rail line

A Chinese government-controlled bank has offered up to $7 billion in loans to finance a proposed magnetic levitation train line between Las Vegas and Southern California, according to the project’s developers.

The Export-Import Bank of China agreed to provide the financing to the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission, provided the company secures federal backing and agrees to cooperate with Chinese enterprises. The commission was ruled ineligible last week for $83 million in federal high-speed rail funding, prompting finger-pointing between Nevada’s state and federal officials (Greenwire, Jan. 29)

The developers of the maglev line are competing with DesertXpress Enterprises LLC, which hopes to build a high-speed train system between Las Vegas and Victorville, Calif.

Los Angeles-based American Magline Group would build the maglev system along with Transrapid International, a joint venture between German industrial giants Siemens AG and ThyssenKrupp AG. Transrapid built a maglev system in Shanghai that has carried 20 million passengers over the past six years.

“It is a very positive development for Nevada’s employment picture and very telling that the financiers who are stepping up to bat are the Chinese, the people most familiar with Transrapid Maglev technology,” said Neil Cummings, president of American Magline Group