June 28 News: Home Wind Turbine Sales Soar; Power Industry Funds Climate Deniers; Hot Fires Stymie Forest Regeneration

A round-up of climate and energy news. Please post other stories below.Sales of wind turbines for home use are going strong

A growing number of people are investing in small electricity generating wind turbines for residential use, despite the bad economy, and backers of wind power say they expect advances in technology and manufacturing to make them even more popular.

Nearly 10,000 units were sold nationally in 2009, the latest available data, according to the American Wind Energy Association. In 2001, only 2,100 units were sold.›

Advocates of small wind turbines say they can be an important source of clean energy in windy parts of the country. Key hurdles to widespread use rest with local governments, their zoning ordinances and public acceptance.


“Zoning and permitting is a big issue in small wind,” says Larry Flowers, the deputy director for distributed and community wind for the American Wind Energy Association.

“There’s progress being made in some places and struggles in others,” he says.

In Brandon, S.D., resident Charlie Cross wants to add a small, 200-watt turbine to supplement his solar power system. Before that can happen, Cross needs to convince the city to issue permits for residential turbines.

Power companies fund anti-climate research on ‘solar variability’

The oil and gas industry gave astrophysicist Willie Soon more than $1 million over the past decade to fund publications that challenge man-made climate change, according to a report released today by Greenpeace.

Soon is a popular figure among skeptics for his assertions that the sun, not greenhouse gases, affects global temperatures. He works at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where energy companies have exclusively funded his research for the past five years, says the report. He could not be reached yesterday for comment on the report.

Among the companies that have provided grants to Soon is Exxon Mobil Corp., which pledged in 2007 to discontinue funding for groups questioning climate change. Greenpeace obtained documents from the Smithsonian observatory through a freedom of information request showing that Exxon gave four grants to Soon totaling $335,000 between 2005 and 2010.

The company said publicly in 2007 that it would stop funding groups “whose position on climate change could divert attention” from developing responsible energy sources.

Global consumers crave green energy in survey: Vestas

Consumers around the world overwhelmingly support the rollout of renewable energy, but many have mistaken views about “green” products, according to a survey conducted by TNS Gallup for Vestas Wind Systems.

The survey, which polled 31,000 consumers in 26 countries in May, was designed to show companies how they could link their image to their customers’ views on climate change and renewable energy.

But the poll also showed that many consumers were ill-informed about companies’ environmental impacts, as well as the availability of renewable power.

Consumers viewed car makers, such as BMW AG and Volkswagen, as the most climate friendly, followed by technology companies, consumer goods makers retailers and food and beverage companies.

“Vehicles powered by fossil fuel account for a significant part of global CO2 emissions, yet automobile manufacturers … have acted to persuade consumer opinion, for instance with advertising claims about the energy efficiency of gasoline or diesel powered vehicles,” Vestas said in statement about the survey.

The poll showed that 79 percent of the consumers surveyed would view as “positive” the companies that primarily use wind energy, with only 4 percent viewing that as “negative.”

Bachmann targets EPA ahead of 2012 launch

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) — who will formally launch her 2012 White House bid Monday — is reiterating vows to roll back Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules.

Bachmann, in an Associated Press interview ahead of the campaign launch, said her economic plan would include repeal of some EPA regulations, which the wire service notes she did not specifically identify.

“Look, I love the environment. I love clean air, clean water. I’m a sportswoman. I love the outdoors. We will keep that. But the EPA has been an expansion department,” Bachmann tells the AP.

Her comments follow even harsher words for EPA, an agency targeted by many Republicans seeking to repeal greenhouse gas regulations and delay or soften a number of other pollution rules.

Gillard Says Australia Will Compensate 90% of Households Under Carbon Tax

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said her government will pay compensation to nine out of 10 households to help families absorb the cost of a carbon- emissions trading system.

The government will offset entirely for nine out of ten households the cost of a carbon price through tax cuts, extra payments to couples with children, and increased pensions, Gillard said today. The assistance will go to about 7 million Australians, she said.

“The price, of course, is going to be paid by the 1,000 big polluters,” Gillard told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. “We are going to assist Australian families with tax cuts and increases in payments. The vast majority of Australians won’t pay an extra cent as a result of the price on carbon.”

Gillard is seeking to garner support for an emissions trading system in the world’s biggest coal exporter, where the number of Australians who say the nation should take action has slipped to a record low 41 percent, according to a poll published today.

Wildfires: Forest regeneration stymied by hot crown fires

Wildfires that have burned across almost 750,000 acres in Arizona are doing more than turning forests into charred stumps.

Researchers with Northern Arizona University say the fires, burning in unnaturally dense stands of ponderosa pine, are turning the forests from carbon sinks into net carbon producers — and, the fires have burned so hot that they aren’t finding many signs of regeneration.

Mike Stoddard, a forest ecologist with NAU’s Ecological Restoration Institute, has been looking for a sign, any sign, of ponderosa pine seedlings 15 years after the 1996 Hochderffer Fire, a crown fire that burned hot through 16,000 acres west of the San Francisco Peaks, near Flagstaff.

“These large fires are devastating our forests,” Stoddard said. “We’re concerned that ponderosa pine is not regenerating after these wildfire events.”

Crown fires burn into the canopies and treetops or crowns of the trees — massive, intense crown fires, such as the Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona, are not natural in the ponderosa pine forest. Naturally occurring ponderosa pine fires burn along the ground, or base, of the trees.

Scientists also are concerned about the invisible impacts of crown fires. The fires are contributing to global warming by upsetting the carbon balance while they are burning, and for years afterward, according to the NAU researchers.