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October 4, 2008

Sarah Palin on Climate Change: The Causes Don’t Matter

Generally speaking, if we don’t know what the cause of a given problem is, but we know there is indeed a problem, how do we devise a strategy capable of adequately addressing it?

read more | digg story

August 1, 2008

Asst. Secretary of Energy Resigns - But Why?

Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner announced his resignation from the Department of Energy on Wednesday. Karsner’s resignation came on the same day as news that Senate Republicans blocked an attempt to extend funding for renewable energy tax credits for the fourth time this summer.

read more | digg story

July 17, 2008

Should President Bush Be Telling Americans to Conserve Gas?

At a Tuesday White House press conference that focused mostly on the current economic downturn, President Bush indicated that he has no intention of calling on Americans to conserve gasoline. The President said it would be presumptive of him to tell American consumers how to behave.But the President did not think it was presumptive to tell American consumers how to behave when he told them to go shopping - twice!

read more | digg story

July 16, 2008

Should President Bush Be Telling Americans to Conserve Gas?

At a Tuesday White House press conference that focused mostly on the current economic downturn, President Bush indicated that he has no intention of calling on Americans to conserve gasoline. The President said it would be "presumptive" to tell American consumers how to behave, yet when it comes telling Americans to go shopping, he doesn't seem to have any problem doing so.

read more | digg story

July 14, 2008

IBM to Prime Pump for Smart-Grid Start-Ups

Although people associate smart grids with digital utility meters, the term covers a range of technologies to make the electricity distribution network more flexible and reliable. For consumers that may mean having an in-home display or Web site that provides real-time information on energy usage.

read more | digg story

IBM to Prime Pump for Smart-Grid Start-Ups

Although people associate smart grids with digital utility meters, the term covers a range of technologies to make the electricity distribution network more flexible and reliable. For consumers that may mean having an in-home display or Web site that provides real-time information on energy usage.

read more | digg story

July 11, 2008

Fuel Prices Spur Aviation Industry to Explore Alternatives

The aviation industry is facing unprecedented growth in fuel costs and growing pressure to curb emission levels. Rolls-Royce and British Airways are the most recent companies to announce a research partnership to explore the viability of alternative fuels.

read more | digg story

DOT Proposes Contest to 'Green' the Jet Fuel Industry

As the aviation industry faces escalating fuel costs and growing pressure to curb emission levels. On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation said that it will finance a new competition designed to spur innovation in renewable fuels and technologies for the aviation industry. The DOT is giving the X Prize Foundation $500,000 seed money for the prize and the payout may reach as much as $10 million dollars when all is said and done.

read more | digg story

July 9, 2008

Critics Spurn G8 Statement on Climate Change

In a joint communiqué on the Environment and Climate Change, The Group of 8 (G8) has agreed to work toward a goal of cutting the worldwide emissions that cause global warming by at least 50 percent by 2050.

read more | digg story

June 30, 2008

EIA Predicts 50% Increase in World Energy Use by 2030

World marketed energy consumption is projected to increase by 50 percent from 2005 to 2030, according to a new report from the United States Energy Information Agency. Total energy demand in non-OECD countries is projected to increase by 95 percent, while OECD countries are expected to increase consumption by 24 percent.

read more | digg story

June 28, 2008

Cooling Data Centers Could Prevent Massive Electrical Waste

It is estimated that the data storage sector consumed about 61 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2006 (1.5 percent of the U.S. total, or more than the electricity consumed by the nation's color televisions and similar to the amount of electricity consumed by approximately 5.8 million average U.S. households. These numbers are only expected to grow.

read more | digg story

June 24, 2008

Home Depot Launches Massive Recycling Program for CFLs

Home Depot will now accept old compact fluorescent light bulbs at all 1,973 of its stores. The move will create the nation’s most widespread recycling program for CFLs, which contain small amounts of mercury.

read more | digg story

June 21, 2008

Vertical-Axis Wind Turbines: The Future of Micro Wind?

Walking the floor of WINDPOWER 2008, the annual conference and trade show for the wind energy industry, one couldn’t help but be transfixed by all of the different types of turbines - at least I couldn’t. The wind turbine has become the iconic symbol of clean, renewable energy. But the classic three-bladed turbine horizontal axis wind turbine, with it's gracefully swooping blades is hardly the only design out there. In fact, the vertical-axis wind turbine is making quite a splash in the world of small and micro wind. Requiring less space and no towers, the vertical axis turbine will undoubtedly become a regular part of clean energy landscapes in the future.

read more | digg story

June 20, 2008

Clean-Energy Tea Leaves Show Choppy Growth

Forecasts for clean-technology adoption all point upward these days, buoyed by high double digits growth rates in sectors like wind and solar power over the past several years. But economic and policy problems have placed a few potholes in front of the fast-growing clean-technology business.

read more | digg story

June 18, 2008

McCain Calls for More Offshore Drilling: When in Houston, right?

Despite the fact that he supported a moratorium on offshore drilling during his previous run for the White House and he has opposed opening up drilling in the past, McCain called for lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling yesterday in Houston. But what did you expect he would say in Houston?

read more | digg story

June 11, 2008

Republicans Block Windfall Profits Tax on Big Oil Companies

With gasoline prices topping $4 a gallon, Senate Democrats wanted the U.S. government to throttle back on the billions of dollars in profits being taken in by the major oil companies. But with the White House threatening a veto of the bill, the Senate voted 51-43 to close debate, well shy of the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster.

read more | digg story

June 2, 2008

Windpower 2008: A Texas-Sized Conference

My first day at the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA)** annual conference and exhibition in Houston has given me one more nugget of evidence that things are just a little bigger in Texas. WINDPOWER 2008 is expected to draw over 10,000 attendees over the course of the four-day event - up from 7,000 attendees at the 2007 event in Los Angeles.

The massive 1/4 mile long exhibition floor at the George R. Brown Convention Center includes displays from some 770 exhibitors, ranging from wind turbine, and component manufacturers, to wind energy financiers, wind farm siting professionals, and construction/maintenace equipment vendors (to name just a few). 

The activity on the floor of the exhibition hall is only a part of WINDPOWER 2008 as the conference program will feature 300 speakers and moderators, 150 poster presentations, and over 50 panel sessions. The panel topics are organized into six daily tracks: Finance, Wind Power Growth, Resource Assesment, Key Issues, Wind at the Epicenter, and my personal favorite, Policy.

It is plainly clear to myself, and anyone attending this year's event in Houston, that wind energy is big business - a far cry from the days where wind energy was seen as a fringe power source only being harness by a few rural landowners and aging off-grid hippies. 

It seems fitting that AWEA's biggest conference to date takes place in here in Texas. Why? Texas has installed more wind energy and is planning more transmission infrastructure in the U.S. than any other U.S. state. Add to that, Houston's position as a leader in the oil and gas industry, and you have what seems like a good fit. I just wish it wasn't so humid.

It is quite clear to me, and anyone else attending this year's event in Houston that wind energy is big business - a far cry from the days where it was seen as a fringe power source only being harnessed by a few rural landowners and aging off-grid hippies. Wind energy has finally come of age. 

Stay tuned to ecopolitology and Green Options for more conference updates throughout the week.

**Very special thanks to the folks at AWEA for their generous support, which has afforded me the opportunity to attend this excellent event and report back to you all about all of the goings on.

May 30, 2008

Germans Debate Renewable Energy Supports

germany debates subsidies for solar industry

Conservatives call into question highly successful feed-in tariff

[Originally posted at Red, Green, and Blue on 5.19.08] There is a reason that Germany has half of the world's installed solar generating capacity, and it is not the Northern European country's boundless sunshine. Renewable energy capacity has achieved such tremendous growth because of the German government’s aggressive energy policy.

The policy vehicle responsible for the rapid acceleration of the country's renewable energy capacity, known as a feed-in tariff (FIT), guarantees a fixed-rate of return for homeowners and farmers who install solar, wind, small hydro, biomass, and methane capturing systems and sell their surplus electricity back to the grid. Germany has Europe's highest feed-in tariffs, allowing consumers to earn around 40 euro cents ($0.62) per kWh compared to paying retail rates of 18 euro cents per kWh after taxes and support fees.

Electricity generated through Germany's feed-in law produces about 50 terawatt-hours (billion kilowatt-hours) of electricity per year, or nearly 15% of German electricity consumption (1). This adds an average of only 1.01 euros ($1.69) a month to a typical home electricity bill.

Bu, despite the law's success, conservatives in the German Bundestag want to ratchet back the incentives that support renewable energy development. More...It seems that the members of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the conservative wing of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) argue that solar generation is growing so fast that it threatens to over burden consumers with high electricity bills, according to an article in the New York Times.

Joachim Pfeiffer, a Member of Parliament who is drafting the plan to cut incentives, says solar power could end up adding 8 euros ($12.32) to a monthly electricity bill, “which would alienate even the most green-minded.”

Opposition to Feed-in Tariff is Not New

But calls for paring back the renewable energy feed-in tariff are nothing new, according to wind energy expert Paul Gipe. Gipe, an outspoken advocate of the FIT and has written extensively on on the subject wrote in an email, "The FDP and the conservative (utility) wing of the CDU have wanted to ratchet back the tariffs all along [and] It's unlikely they will succeed."

Other supporters of the German feed-in tariff point to the unparalleled growth in renewable energy capacity reason enough to maintain the system as it currently stands. "The general target is to mobilise all renewable options, producing a renewable energy mix and reducing the dependency on conventional energy over time," says Hermann Scheer, one of the principal drivers behind Germany’s renewable resurgence.

So far, 15% of Germany's energy comes from renewables, an increase of 11% in just eight years. "We could increase the speed of this growth if it weren't for the barriers we're facing at local and regional levels," says Scheer.

Importantly, Gipe did add that the CDU could grant some concessions by throttling back on the proposed offshore tariffs "which are widely seen as a gift to the utility companies."

I would argue that it would be foolish for Germany to nip the most successful renewable energy policy this planet has ever seen in the bud. Especially with the certain increase in demand for electricity, and the rising pressures on the coal-industry in Germany, Germans may be better off absorbing a slight increase in their electricity bills that is calculable, as opposed to drastic increases used to offset certain shortages.

Other posts about feed-in tariffs and German energy policy:

Photo: Jeff Poskanzer via Flickr under a Creative Commons License

May 25, 2008

Red, Green, and Blue Named 'Red Hot Blog of the Day'

I am pleased and humbled to announce that the good folks over at RedOrbit have named Green Options' environmental politics blog, Red, Green, and Blue as the ‘Red Hot Blog of the Day‘ for May 23, 2008. As many of you already know, I've been the lead writer at Red, Green, and Blue since its inception in the Spring of 2008. I am proud of the place we have carved out within the niche thus far, and I look forward to the places it will go in the future.

RedOrbit provides mountains of wide-ranging content contained covering the vast ideological spectrums of space, science, health, and technology. Launched in in 2003, RedOrbit averages over 5 million unique visitors per month, “with subject matter a bit more intellectually oriented than most” (I love that last part).

May 22, 2008

MMS Overwhelmed by 40,000+ Comments on Cape Wind


Agency permanently extends comment period for alt. energy leases

[Originally posted at Red, Green, and Blue on May 5, 2008] In the fall of 2001, Jim Gordon of Energy Management Inc. (EMI) announced his intentions to build a 420 megawatt wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts - the nation's first. Now, the long permitting process that was made even longer by powerful opposition groups, is nearing resolution...finally.

More than 40,000 individuals and organizations have submitted comments on an environmental review of the wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound, according to an article in the Cape Cod Times.

"I've never seen anything like this before," said Rodney Cluck, Cape Wind project manager for the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the lead federal agency to review Cape Wind Associates' plan to build 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound, off the coast of Massachusetts. Originally, the comments were set to be released last Friday, but officials at the Minerals Management Service postponed the release to give agency staffers more time to organize the overwhelming public response to the proposed wind farm.

As a result of the scoping process' popularity, the MMS announced that they would be preemptively extending the comment period for all of the remaining "Alternative Energy Leases" from 30 to 60 days.More...

The final number of public comments submitted on the agency's Cape Wind draft environmental report has yet to be tallied. But it is quite telling that an earlier 2005 report on the same project issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers produced one-tenth the number of comments than this one indicates that MMS did something right since taking over the review of Cape Wind from the Army Corps as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (As an aside, I think it also says something about the Corps of Engineers' ability to adequately conduct a thorough public scoping process).

Opponents remain critical; supporters remain confident

The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the project's most vocal opponent, enlisted 40 experts to review the report. The hired guns produced a 3,000-page critique of the Cape Wind proposal. One theme of critique coming from private scientists as well as public ones, was that the report's information on migratory birds and fishery habitats where the project would be located is inadequate. "At the very least, the (report) should explain why recommended studies and analyses were not conducted and the ramifications of not having that information," Michael Bartlett, supervisor for the New England Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Despite the criticisms of the MMS report, the vast majority of comments submitted will be in favor of the project, predicted Mark Rodgers, Communications Director for Cape Wind Associates.

A record of decision from the agency indicating approval or disapproval of the Cape Wind project is expected to be released sometime in the winter. And only then will this long, arduous journey be over...right?

Cape Cod Times

Other Posts Related to the Cape Wind Project:

"The Politicos Chiming in On Cape Wind" :: sustainablog (8/2005)

"(D)emocracy: Tell the Feds What You Think About Cape Wind" :: Planetsave (2/2008)

"Survey Finds Overwhelming Support for Cape Wind" :: ecopolitology (8/2007)

"Breaking: MMS Report Favorable on Cape Wind" :: sustainablog (1/2008)

"Cape Wind Opponent to Step Down" :: sustainablog (1/2008)

Photo: © Kamil Sobócki |

The Week in Cleantech News (May 5-12, 2008)

cex.jpg[Originally posted at CleanTechnica on 5.18.08]
For those of you who are bettin' folks, traders on the Chicago Climate Exchange view the Democrats as more bullish on cap-and-trade systems. So if you're betting on a Democratic victory, you'll want to buy those contracts now, in anticipation of a price spike on Nov. 5 (Politico).

Toyota Prius sales have topped 1 million and dealers in most markets simply can't keep them on the shelves. Toyota says domestic inventory is limited by production capacity in Japan, which is shared by the Asian and European markets. The U.S. supply is at its lowest level in two years (Wired).


Imagine a high-speed train that could get you from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two hours forty minutes. Well, that dream is now one step closer to reality as the California High Speed Rail Authority has cleared environmental impact assessments and is beginning construction of what will be the most substantial high-speed rail network in the U.S. But don't make travel arrangements just yet. The project is not scheduled to be completed until 2030 (gas 2.0).

A joint biofuel effort was announced Thursday involving Air Bus, JetBlue, Honeywell, and Aero Engines that plans to study ways to make commercial aviation fuels out of second-generation feedstocks such as algae (Green Tech Blog).

A new wave of nuclear power plants in the U.S. is likely to cost $5 billion to $12 billion a plant, two to four times previous estimates, driving up electricity bills for consumers and inevitably reigniting public concerns about the costs and benefits of nuclear power (The Wall St. Journal).cooling-tower-bistrosavage.jpg

Photo credits:

Karl Gunnarrsson via flickr Creative Commons License

compicpie via flickr Creative Commons License

Bistrosavage via flickr Creative Comons License

May 21, 2008

SeaGen Tidal Power Up and Running [with new pics]

seagen, tidal power turbinesMarine Current Turbines Ltd has successfully completed the installation of its 1.2MW SeaGen tidal energy system in Strangford Narrows in Northern Ireland. There will now be a 12-week period of commissioning and testing before it starts regularly feeding power into the Northern Ireland grid.

The last time I wrote about the SeaGen project I got more than a couple of emails from friends and readers who were skeptical about the claims that the 16 meter-long turbine blades spinning on these machines could be environmentally benign (watch an animation of the turbines in action). The comments I received used such colorful language as "bassomatic" and "Irish Cuisinart" to describe the tidal power turbines.

I've yet to read over the reports myself, but it is my impression that researchers have no indications that the turbines would be harmful to marine life because the speed at which the rotors sweep (you may register to download the reports here).strangford loch, seagen, tidal power, tidal energyThe final Environmental Impact Study was submitted to the regulatory authority, the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) in Northern Ireland in June 2005 and the license for the temporary installation for the SeaGen system for a five year duration was first issued in December 2005.

Researchers will be adopting an approach commonly referred to as 'adaptive management', whereby, the environmental impact of SeaGen will be continuously monitored bystrangford loch, seagen, tidal power the team throughout the licensed 5 year installation period. The project is being managed by Royal Haskoning with Queens University Belfast and the Sea Mammal Research Unit.

It seems to me that the SeaGen could be a very expensive test run, if it turns out the turbines are indeed ecologically problematic.

Related Posts:

"World's First Commercial-Scale Tidal Power Turbines"
"Animation: SeaGen Tidal Power Turbine"

[Photos are courtesy of Taylor Keough Communications, please contact me via email if you'd like larger/higher res. and I will pass them along].

May 20, 2008

Dems Name State Blogger Corps for Convention (and no, you're not on the list)

Several months ago, Democratic officials began the process of credentialing bloggers who cover state and local politics, as part of the DemConvention State Blogger Corps. More than 400 blogs applied for the program, and selections were largely based upon the degree to which bloggers have become experts on the political happenings in their states.

You’ll see a list below of the 55 blogs that will comprise the State Blogger Corps. They’ll be seated with their respective delegations at the Convention. Bloggers will have some of the best seats in the house and they’ll be the eyes and ears of local audiences online around the country (congratulations if you're blog IS on the list below - mine aren't. Maybe I'll be able to sneak in, security shouldn't be too tight!)

The DemConvention State Blogger Corps is listed below.


ALASKA - Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis -
ALABAMA- Doc's Political Parlor -
ARKANSAS- Under The -
ARIZONA - Ted Prezelski - Rum, Romanism and Rebellion -
CALIFORNIA - Calitics-
CONNECTICUT -My Left Nutmeg -
DELAWARE – TommyWonk -
DEMOCRATS Abroad - Democrats Abroad Argentina -
FLORIDA - Florida Progressive Coalition -
GEORGIA- Tondee's Tavern -
GUAM - No Rest for the Awake - Minagahet Chamorro -
HAWAII - Ian Lind Online -
IOWA - The Iowa Independent -
ILLINOIS- Prairie State Blue -
INDIANA- Blue Indiana -
KENTUCKY – BlueGrassRoots -
LOUISIANA - Daily Kingfish -
MASSACHUSETTS - Blue Mass. Group -
MARYLAND - The Center for Emerging Media -
MAINE - Turn Maine Blue -
MICHIGAN - Blogging For Michigan -
MINNESOTA - Minnesota Monitor -
MISSISSIPPI - The Natchez Blog -
MISSOURI - Fired Up! LLC -
MONTANA - Left in the West -
NEBRASKA - New Nebraska Network -
NEW HAMPSHIRE - Blue Hampshire -
NEW MEXICO - Democracy for New Mexico -
NEVADA - Las Vegas Gleaner -
NEW YORK - Room 8 -
OHIO - Ohio Daily Blog -
OKLAHOMA - DemoOkie -
OREGON - BlueOregon (blog) -
PENNSYLVANIA - Keystone Politics -
PUERTO RICO - Jusiper -
RHODE ISLAND - Rhode Island's Future -
SOUTH DAKOTA - Badlands Blue -
TENNESSEE - KnoxViews/TennViews -
TEXAS - Burnt Orange Report -
UTAH - The Utah Amicus -
VIRGINIA - Raising Kaine -
VIRGIN ISLANDS - Democratic Party of the US Virgin Islands -
VERMONT - Green Mountain Daily -
WISCONSIN - Uppity Wisconsin -
WEST VIRGINIA - West Virginia Blue -
WYOMING - Hummingbirdminds blog -

Photo: dbking via flickr under a creative commons license

May 19, 2008

Big Week for Vestas

vestas wind systems, wind turbine[From my post at CleanTechnica on 5.9.2008] Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems (VWS:DC) had a big week. First, the world's largest wind turbine manufacturer announced that they would be building a tower manufacturing plant in Colorado. Second, Vestas reported a 94 percent jump in earnings in the first quarter of 2008, as compared to the same period last year.

Although they have yet to disclose the location of the new tower manufacturing facility, it would be situated to complement the company's fist North American blade manufacturing plant, which recently opened its doors in Windsor, Colorado.

For the tower plant, the company will need a large parcel of land served by freight rail, a combination that Northern Colorado can provide at several locations, including the Windsor location, where construction proceeds on phase two of the blade plant. According to the Northern Colorado Business Review, more than 1,000 new jobs could result from further expansion of Vestas' manufacturing presence (read the rest of this story at CleanTechnica). More...


Other posts about the cleantech industry:

Photo: Vestas Wind Systems

May 16, 2008

DOE Cancels Shipments to Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Colorado Senator is lone dissenter in 97-1 vote

I'm really thankful that Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) is not running for another term. Earlier this week, the Senate voted 97-1 to halt shipments to the strategic petroleum reserve, a move that precipitated today's announcement by the Department of Energy that they would cancel shipments beginning in July. The reserve is currently 97% full, holding 701 million barrels of crude.

The lone dissenting vote in the Senate was that of the outgoing Republican Senator from Loveland, CO. Way to be a team player, Wayne. I really like people like people like Sen. Allard who are so principled and have such strong conviction for such a noble cause as this [note heavy sarcasm].

"Voting only to stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve without doing anything to increase domestic production and lessening our dependence on foreign oil is a disservice to the American people," Allard said.

Denver Post

May 15, 2008

The McCain 100% Organic Cotton ‘Onesie?’

As a part of the elucidation of his climate change policy, the McCain camp has opened a "Go Green" section of his campaign store. For those of you whose newborns have already outgrown those Ronald Reagan ‘Trickle-Down Diaper Covers’ that were hand-me-downs from your older cousin, you can consider wrapping your newest litle neo-cons in the soft organic cotton of the John McCain ‘Onesie.’

read more | digg story

May 14, 2008

Is A Renewable Energy Bubble Looming?

A renewable energy bubble looming?Maybe.

According to a report issued by KPMG (download pdf), a bubble may be developing globally in the renewable energy sector as bidders compete for assets and send prices up.

Oil and gas companies are buying in the hunt for cleaner fuels and financial buyers are searching for stable long-term cash flow - the overall effect has been to push valuations up to record levels. The report indicates that 50 % of respondents, and nearly two-thirds in Europe, agreed that there is a real risk of a bubble in the renewable energy sector.

The KPMG press release also reported:

"On a more micro level, there are other issues including the fact that many sites have difficulty connecting to electricity grids and there is a shortage of turbines to build new wind farms. All this is also putting aside one the most basic risks of all - that investors are putting money into technology that could become obsolete very quickly."
While I agree that investors should be cautious, I think that is always good advice. Although the KPMG report has raised some important questions about supply chain bottlenecks, and uncertainty in government incentives, I would argue that the renewable energy and cleantech sectors are relatively robust, despite the fact that many companies have yet to turn a profit.

In the U.S., a lot depends on what (if anything) comes out of Capitol Hill to stabilize the incentive structure for investment in clean energy technologies. I will argue, as I have before, that even if this current Congress does not pass meaningful extensions this year, some sort of tax credit will be passed early next year, and there is a good chance they could extend it retroactively.

Photo: Limbo Poet via flickr under a Creative Commons License

May 12, 2008

DOE: Wind Can Provide 20% of Our Electricity by 2030

Department of Energy report, wind energy
A report released on Monday by the Department of Energy indicates that the U.S. could meet 20% of its electricity needs with wind by 2030. While achieving that goal is technically feasible, the report estimates it would require $197 billion in investments, especially in the infrastructure of interstate transmission.

Unfortunately, the DOE stopped short of endorsing any specific policy that would help reach the 20% goal. And with considerable uncertainty about the current state of renewable energy tax credits, one might ask what policy vehicle would get us there that quickly.

The expenditure needed to reach the 20% goal would only be $43 billion, or 2%, higher than if the U.S. didn't add any wind whatsoever and reached the same power capacity from other sources, the DOE and its industry collaborators said in the report.

Andy Karsner, DOE assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy called arguments against wind power as an unreliable and marginal source of power,"frivolous and uninformed," at a Monday press conference.

The report also highlighted the importance of proper siting of wind projects, as well as mitigation of effects on wildlife and other environmental issues. It noted that the 20% outcome would reduce cumulative water consumption by the electric sector by 8% from 2007 through 2030. This would be especially important for the arid states of the interior West.

Department of Energy Press Release
CNN Money
Photo: ccgd

Farm Bill Showdown?


[Adapted from my post at Red, Green, & Blue on 4.29.2008] Word has it that the farm bill congressional conferees hammered out at the end of last week would most likely be vetoed by President Bush. Opponents argue that the bill is full of wasteful handouts to wealthy growers, while supporters defend the supports as a needed rural safety net that also expands nutrition aid for the poor. The bill is expected to be on the House floor later this week and go to the Senate quickly thereafter.

According to Ryan Grimm at, when asked what the President would do if the current iteration of the farm bill made its way to the President's desk White House spokesman Scott Stanzel replied, "as it stands now, it is not something the president would support." Despite the threat, there may be enough Congressional support to override the veto. According to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), "If the White House is stupid enough to veto this, they’re going to get overridden.”

The farm bill is a very popular funding mechanism for Congressional spending. Every state's congressional delegation works extremely hard to get their slice of the agricultural pie - not doing so does not bode well in the eyes of powerful ag interests and the voters of agricultural states. In short, farm bills do not get vetoed. At least very rarely do they get vetoed - there are a few exceptions.

One exception to the rule is when a second term president uses a veto (or threatens to veto) an appropriations bill, such as a farm bill - and criticize Congress for loading it with pork and earmarks - without any serious political repercussions. Interestingly enough, the last time a farm bill was vetoed was nearly 10 years ago, when another late second-term president successfully vetoed a farm bill - a veto which Congress made no attempt to override. But the political climate is quite different from that of ten years ago, and I would suspect that this President does not have the political capital to successfully veto the farm bill.

Other posts on farm policy:

"Small Wind Remains in Farm Bill" :: Green Options (12/2007)

Photo: mike138

May 9, 2008

New Zealand: Renewable Energy Cheaper than Gas

manawatu, wind-energy, wind-farm, new-zealand
Investment in renewable energy generation in New Zealand, especially geothermal and wind power, is already more attractive than investment in gas-fired generation, according to a story in Friday's New Zealand Herald.

"Renewables are by far the most economic proposition, especially geothermal," said Bruce Parkes of Wellington-based Contact Energy. "But the cost of wind and baseload gas is roughly equal with a carbon price of $23 and gas at $7 a petajoule, which is around the current price."

Last December, lawmakers in New Zealand proposed a 10-year moratorium on the construction of any new fossil fuel-burning power plants. But officials from Contact Energy believe that goal can be met without the need for the moratorium - simply because the economics are favorable.

Other Posts on Energy Costs:
New Zealand Herald
Photo: Robyn Gallagher

May 8, 2008

Winter Storms + Wind Farms = Falling Electricity Prices

[Originally published at CleanTechnica on 4.18.2008] The powerful winter storms that moved across Europe in March precipitated a considerable spike in electricity supply on the European grid, thanks to continental wind farms.

Wind speeds of 100 mph were recorded across Europe and topped 135 mph at the Czech Republic’s highest mountain, Snezka. The surplus electricity on the grid, produced mostly by German and Danish wind farms pushed prices down by 12% on the spot market.

Traders buying and selling round-the-clock power reported that the ‘day ahead’ price in central Europe’s power market dropped to €49.5 ($76) per megawatt hour compared with €56 at the end of the previous week, according to a piece at Planet Ark. Unfortunately, the article also suggests that sudden drops in electricity prices on the spot market have little effect on end-use rates.

This story points out one of the most persistent ‘problems’ of large-scale wind energy development- how do we address the peaks and valleys on the grid presented by wind power, and how do we reconcile those with power plants which cannot be easily adjusted to deal with those peaks?

Several options of dealing with the storage issue have emerged including compressed air, hydro pump-backs, and more efficient flywheel designs. These are all good steps, and more will undoubtedly emerge. That is why it is important that the ‘problem’ of storing wind energy be framed as an opportunity for technological innovation, and not as a justification for more coal-fired power plants.

Photo: © Kamil Sobócki |

May 5, 2008

The Synergy Between Wind Energy and Freight Trains

train tracks, freight train, railThere were a pair of articles in Sunday's Denver Post about the synergy between the wind energy and heavy rail industries (I suppose you could also say there is a synergy between heavy rail and the energy industry, more broadly defined, as residents of the mountain west are all to familiar with the mile-long coal trains and natural gas filled tanks criss-crossing the landscape and creating delays).

When Vestas Wind Systems announced that they would locate their first North American blade plant in Windsor, Colorado, company officials said part of the reason for doing so was because of the site's proximity to the regional rail network. Each blade being produced at the Windsor facility will be about 150 feet, and at full production capacity, Vestas expects to roll out about six of those blades per day, making rail transport quite attractive, to say the least.

Now, Beaumont, Texas-based Dragon Wind has thrown its hat into the ring and announced its plans to open a plant in Lamar, Colorado that will build 262-foot steel wind turbine towers. Officials of Dragon parent Modern Group Ltd. said Colorado's stature in wind power and rail access to Lamar were keys in siting the plant.

Rising Fuel Costs Making Rail-Freight More Attractive

Skyrocketing fuel prices are contributing to noticeable shifts in the country's freight-by-rail traffic. Add to this, locomotive fuel efficiency that has increased 80 percent since 1980 and you end up with a train that can carry a ton of freight for 423 miles on a gallon of fuel.
Steve Raabe writes in the Denver Post article:

"Record high energy prices — especially for diesel that fuels locomotives — have hit railroads as hard as any other transportation sector. But rail's ability to handle trains with hundreds of cars gives it an efficiency advantage compared with tractor-trailer freight."
I will say this in reply to all of the above: If the time ever comes that I am stopped for ten minutes in downtown Fort Collins to let a freight train pass by with car after car loaded with wind turbine blades from nearby Windsor, rather than car after car of liquified natural gas from
the Powder Basin in Wyoming, or forest products from Idaho and Montana, I won't mind waiting.

Photo: disckychick

Related Posts:

May 3, 2008

Cartoon: 'Mean Joe Green' on Clean Coal

[Note: This week we are adding an exciting new feature to ecopolitology: selections from writer and cartoonist, Joe Mohr's "Mean Joe Green" series of environmentally-themed political cartoons, courtesy of Green Options Media. We are grateful to have Joe's sharp-witted and thoughtful cartoons gracing the pages of ecopolitology. And we hope you enjoy them. For more, follow this link to Joe Mohr's Green Options archive.]

May 1, 2008

British MPs Spurn Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff

I wish the U.S. Congress operated with more of the same ground rules (both official and unofficial) as does the British Parliament. You see, yesterday I found myself watching the House of Commons proceedings as MPs deliberated the merits of a renewable energy feed-in tariff (FIT). I mean they actually deliberated.

I've always gotten a kick out of watching the Prime Minister's question and answer session, and have ever since C-SPAN started carrying it many years ago. But I am less accustomed to watching the rank-and-file debate the specifics of policy. That's why I appreciated the level of back and forth as compared to what I am used to watching from Capitol Hill when they are "debating" policy.

Unfortunately, for those who support FITs as the best mechanism for growing renewable energy capacity, Labour party rebels failed to convince enough of their fellow MPs to support the proposal. According to the BBC, the move, led by Labour's Alan Simpson, was defeated by 250 votes to 210. It had garnered cross-party support with some 276 MPs from all parties signing a Commons motion ahead of Wednesday's vote. 35 Labour MPs voted against the government.

"MPs reject renewable energy move" BBC NEWS (430/07)
Photo: Timothy B. Hurst

April 30, 2008

Corps of Engineers: Reservoir Would Reduce Poudre River Flow Through Ft Collins by 71% During Peak Runoff

glade reservoir, nisp, poudre riverThe Northern Integrated Supply Project's proposed Glade Reservoir would significantly reduce flow of the Cache la Poudre River in peak runoff months. According to the long-awaited Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) released on Wednesday, the proposed reservoir would reduce the Poudre River's flow through Fort Collins by 71 percent in May and more than half as runoff peaks in June.

The Ft. Collins Coloradoan reports that
opponents of the project are preparing to dig in to the massive document and its concomitant technical reports. The release begins a 90-day comment period during which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will review input from residents and government agencies about the project. Opponents plan to lobby for an extension of the comment period, according to the Coloradoan.

A quick look at the draft EIS did not produce any surprises, said Gary Wockner, spokesman for Glade Reservoir opponents, Save the Poudre Coalition. "There's nothing in there that changes our mind that this project will be very bad for the Poudre River," he added.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Building Glade and Galeton (another reservoir) as proposed would cost about $426 million and would be the least-costly alternative.
  • Glade would cause the loss of 44 acres of wetlands, the fewest among the alternatives.
  • The reservoir would cause the loss of about 2,700 acres of native plant communities, or 20 percent more than other options.
  • The reservoir would cause the loss of 50 acres of habitat for the Preble's meadow jumping mouse, which is a designated as a threatened species.
  • Most of Glade's water would be taken during times of high flows. Reductions in the river's monthly average flow through Fort Collins would range from 71 percent in May in average years to 26 percent in August in dry years.
  • NISP participants currently have access to about 50,000 acre feet of water and are expected to exceed that amount by 2010. With continued population growth, the annual demand for water will reach 90,700 acre feet by 2025.
  • Flows on the Poudre and South Platte are likely to be reduced by other proposed water projects, including the expansion of Halligan and Seaman reservoirs, if NISP is built and if it is not.
Fort Collins Coloradoan
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Draft EIS
Photo: Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District

British Parliament to Vote on Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff Today

Ahead of a crucial House of Commons vote on Wednesday, which aims to add a renewable energy feed-in tariff (FIT) to the energy bill currently working its way through parliament, a broad-based coalition says that parliament has no time to waste and must act to adopt more aggressive clean energy policies. Farmers unions, environmental groups, and mechanical engineers, are banding together and displaying the widespread political support for changes in the UK's energy portfolio.

FITs have been introduced in nearly 5A0 countries around the world, and they have been particularly successful in Germany where the guaranteed rate for solar power fed to the grid has made it the world leader with 55% of the global installed solar capacity. And as the evidence from Germany shows, not only is the FIT a powerful tool for building renewable energy capacity, but it is arguably the most cost-effective way of doing so.

The Guardian (4/28/2007)

April 29, 2008

Dept. of Energy Selects Grid R&D Projects

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it will contribute $50 million in federal funding to nine demonstration projects to modernize the nation's electrical energy grid, with the goal of reducing the peak load electricity demand by 15 percent over five years. The list of demonstration projects are as follows:

1.Allegheny Power will develop the “West Virginia Super Circuit” in conjunction with West Virginia University, North Carolina State Universiy will improve distribution system performance, reliability, and security of electric supply through the integration of distributed resources and advanced technologies.

2. Rocky Mountain Power and P&E AUTOMATION, will demonstrate load reduction through an integrated network of diverse renewable generation technologies and intelligent automation. The project will integrate renewable generation and energy storage resources, including compressed-air generation technology, wind-turbines, heat recovery systems, solar trough booster technology, a steam turbine, and hydro-turbine resources.

3. Chevron Energy Solutions will collaborate with Alameda County, PG&E, the University of Wisconsin, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Energy and Environmental Economics to significantly reduce peak load and measurably improve power reliability at the Santa Rita Jail.

4. The City of Fort Collins, in cooperation with Larimer County, Colorado State University, InteGrid Lab, and others will research, develop, and demonstrate a 3.5 megawatt coordinated and integrated system of Mixed Distributed Resources in Fort Collins to achieve a 20-30 percent peak load reduction on multiple distribution feeders.

5. Consolidated Edison Co. of New York, Inc., along with Verizon, Innovative Power, Infotility, and Enernex, will develop and demonstrate methodologies to achieve true interoperability between a delivery company and end-use retail electric customers, enhancing the reliability of the distribution grid and the efficiency of its operations.

6. The Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and others will work to balance loads with distributed resources, advanced sensing, switching, feeder reconfiguration, and controls. This effort will be replicable at any municipality-sized system.

7. San Diego Gas and Electric will develop a dispatchable distribution feeder for peak load reduction and wind-farming in conjunction Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the University of San Diego, Motorola, and Lockheed Martin. The project aims to prove the effectiveness of integrating multiple distributed energy resources with advanced controls and communication systems to improve stability and reduce peak loads on feeders/substations.

8. The University of Hawaii, in cooperation with General Electric, Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc., Maui Electric Company, Columbus Electric Cooperative, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Sentech, and UPC Wind, will explore the management of distribution system resources for improved service quality and reliability, transmission congestion relief, and grid support functions.

9. The University of Nevada will partner with Nevada Power Company, and GE Ecomagination to address the construction of energy efficient homes that overcome electricity grid integration, control, and communications issues by building integrated photovoltaic systems, battery energy storage, and consumer products linked to advanced meters that enable and facilitate an efficient response to consumer energy demands.

Department of Energy press release
Photo: johnnyalive

Video: Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (w/clock)

I recently recorded this short video of a grid-tied vertical-axis wind turbine and accompanied clock at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Although it sounds very windy in the video, I would guess it was gusting to only 12-14 knots. Running time is 50 seconds [please pardon the excited whimpers of my Labrador who knows he's going to play with the tennis ball].

April 28, 2008

Switching From Coal to Woody Biomass

biomass, woody biomass, pine beetleA school district in the mountains of Northwestern Colorado is replacing its old coal-fired boilers with a system that will burn woody biomass - a suddenly plentiful resource - thanks to the region's pine beetle epidemic that is threatening to kill off nearly all of the state's lodgelpole pines in the next 3-5 years.

The South Routt School District will be spending the next few months replacing it's old coal-fired boiler with a biomass boiler that will use wood pellets for fuel instead. A significant portion of the pellets will come from the new Confluence Energy facility that is just about ready to open its doors in Kremmling, Colorado.

The project was financed The Governor’s Energy Of­­fice and a state bond program. McKinstry, an energy-oriented consulting and contracting firm based in the Seattle area, also is contributing free services for the boiler, which Reed said will be “cost-neutral” for South Routt schools. The change is part of a $4.1 million project to improve energy efficiency in schools and buildings, and could save the district $10,000 a year.

See Also:

"Should We Pursue Biofuels From Beetle-Killed Wood?" :: CleanTechnica (2/2008)
"Jamtland: A County Fueled by Biomass" (Video) :: ecopolitology (3/2008)
Steamboat Pilot (4/2008)

Photo: Steve Roe

April 24, 2008

75% of Greens OK with Nuclear Power?

nuclear power, uranium, public opinion, pollOver in the TalkClimateChange section of the new Green Options Discussion Forum, my colleague Mark Seall recently wrapped-up a “Live Debate” on the merits of nuclear power. In addition to the excellent and informed discussion with nuclear experts and environmentalists, there was also a reader poll that concluded with some rather unexpected results. Nearly 75 percent of the respondents believe that nuclear power is good because it is a source of “abundant carbon free energy.”

Yes, this is a reader poll, and it is not a statistical representation of the public attitude of any country in particular. But it is striking that the 133 readers who did vote, were all doing so from a blog network called Green Options. Get it? Simply put, the public attitude towards nuclear power has undergone a seismic shift in recent years. This evidence indicates that this is not the same environmental movement that emerged in the early 1970’s.

Read more....

Colbert on Earth Day

Colbert's concern for the environment is again evident.

April 23, 2008

Let's Be Honest - Does Earth Day Really Matter?

Yes. Yes it does.... Earth Day has the potential to be a powerful tool for education, discussion, & the mobilization of concerted political action on behalf of the environment. Earth Day could even be a national holiday, recognized with all of the rights & privileges associated with the title.

read more | digg story

Photo: Birmingham 1972 (National Archives)

April 22, 2008

Earth Day - Wonk Style

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter continued with his ambitious environmental agenda by issuing three executive orders on Tuesday.

  • Executive Order D 004 08 establishes reduction goals for greenhouse gas emissions (20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, both from 2005 levels); directs the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to develop regulations mandating the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions; and requests the Public Utilities Commission to require each utility under its jurisdiction to submit electric resource plans that include an analysis showing how the utility could achieve a 20 percent reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020.
  • Executive Order D 010 08 establishes an agricultural sequestration offset program.
  • Executive Order B 007 08 establishes a Colorado Climate Advisory Panel.

Also today, Gov. Ritter announced the "Insulate Colorado" program to help homeowners insulate their homes and reduce energy consumption. With 44 statewide partners, Insulate Colorado will provide rebates to participating homeowners up to $300 per project.

Gov. Ritter also announced the first 13 founding Colorado reporters to The Climate Registry. The voluntary registry will "Assist in measuring, tracking and verifying emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), the gases that cause climate change. It will also provide the measurement and reporting infrastructure to support voluntary, mandatory, market-based and emissions reduction." Those signers are:

American Energy Assets
Cameron-Cole, LLC
Hogan and Hartson
Kleinfelder, Inc.
Newmont Mining Corporation
Platte River Power Authority
Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)
Shell Oil Company
State of Colorado
Suncor Energy (USA) Inc.
Symbiotic Engineering, LLC
Tri-State Generation and Transmission
Xcel Energy

Gov. Ritter's Press Release

April 21, 2008

A Solar and Wind Monopoly?

Just in time for the barrage of Earth Day campaigns (some more dubious than others), Mr. Moneybags is going green. Hasbro announced Monday that it's iconic boardgame, Monopoly, is replacing its old-style utilities, 'Water Works' and 'Electric Company,' with the more environmentally-conscious 'Solar Energy' and 'Wind Energy.'

Phil Jackson, of Hasbro Games said in a release, “In a nod to the efforts of countries worldwide to increase the effectiveness and availability of renewable energy sources, we decided to feature Solar Energy and Wind Energy on the game board." The new edition, called Monopoly Here and Now, will be coming out this fall.

It's great that Monopoly will be jumping on the renewable energy bandwagon, as this can only help grow public consciousness about cleaner energy sources. On a more nit-picky note, the game will be departing from its monopolistic foundations by eliminating the two utilities. Along with the railroads, the electric and water companies are the only monopolistic enterprises in the game. But it would be difficult to argue that either solar energy or wind energy are monopolies.

I know that kind of takes the fun out of the move, but I just can't help it sometimes.

Yahoo Finance
Photo: Saffana

April 20, 2008

Will the Renewable Energy Tax Package Get Signed into Law?

[Originally published at CleanTechnica on 4.11.08]By a rather impressive tally of 88-8, the U.S. Senate approved The Clean Energy Tax Stimulus Act (S.2821) as an amendment to HR.3221, which aims to mitigate the economic impact of the current housing crisis.

The renewable energy tax credits were slipped into a housing bill that that did not end up looking the way its lead author, Sen. Chris Dodd really, intended it to, remarking earlier in the week that it was “a housing bill, not a Christmas tree.”

However, will the production tax credit and investment tax credit ever make it to the President’s desk to sign?

I would argue that we will see some sort of stripped-down version of the renewable energy tax credits, if any at all. The House has hardened its opposition to this version of the tax-credit extensions, which are estimated to cost $6 billion over 10 years. House leaders have strong objections to deficit-financed tax breaks, and with few exceptions, they have offset lost tax revenue with tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere. But since the President rebuked Congress’ previous attempts at funding the tax credits by rescinding tax breaks for big oil, there hasn’t been much of a discussion as far as where the money for this program will come from. One possible, though unlikely, route that this bill could follow for passage could be if the bill is consistently framed as an economic stimulus package. In that case, the House might be able to bend their pay-go rules. But, that may be a long shot.

I doubt that the House will accept these extensions without some corresponding offsets,” said Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) on the Senate floor. “This leaves the administration with a key role to play in developing a compromise that will be acceptable to both chambers.”

So we’re leaving this up to the Bush administration to figure out? Yikes.

April 17, 2008

Could Taking Substantive Action on Climate Change Possibly Be Bush Legacy?

For Teddy Roosevelt, it was the creation of our system of national parks. For Richard Nixon it was the passage of landmark environmental reforms found in the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. For Bill Clinton it was an eleventh-hour preservation of millions of acres of public land. For George W. Bush, will leading the world in addressing climate change with strong, substantive policy be his legacy? I kind of doubt it.

read more | digg story
Photo courtesy of Madison Guy

April 15, 2008

Colorado Launches Carbon Fund

planet earth, climate change, carbon policyA new program in Colorado is designed to help residents buy carbon offsets to counter greenhouse gas pollution. The program is also designed to help protect buyers and ensure that they get what they pay for.

The Colorado Carbon Fund, part of the Governor's Energy Office, is designed to help Colorado governments, businesses, and individuals buy offsets, attract money to Colorado-based projects and verify that the money spent on offsets is being used as intended.

"We want to make sure Colorado consumers have a project available so they know where their money is going," said Susan Innis, manager of the carbon fund. "In some cases, you might not know exactly how your money is being spent or what the environmental impacts are." The verification part of the program would include new standards backed up by audits and a certification process.

It is not entirely clear how the government plants on overseeing the carbon offset market in Colorado, but details are forthcoming.

One funding tool for the carbon fund will be the sale of specialty license plates. To qualify for the plates, drivers will need to make a donation to the Colorado Carbon Fund. They will also need to pay $55.36 for the plate. Lawmakers added a nice touch to the bill; Vehicles over 16,000 pounds will not be eligible to a Colorado Carbon Fund license plate.

The Carbon Fund will be up and running later this spring.

Photo courtesy of esparta

April 14, 2008

More Legal Action in Desert Rock Power Plant Case

In my 3.19.08 post at Red, Green, and Blue, I reported that Dine Power Authority and Sithe Global Power sued the US Environmental Protection Agency for dragging its feet on the air permit for a proposed coal-fired power plant on Navajo land in New Mexico. The group filed for a permit in 2004 and is still awaiting a final decision.

Now, opponents of the proposed coal-fired power plant have joined the legal fray by suing the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, according to a report in News From Indian Country. Dine Citizens Against Ruining our Environment and the San Juan Citizens Alliance claim federal agents have violated open records laws by withholding information related to the controversial plant and a coal mine that would supply it.

Among the groups’ requests are records on a consultant’s work on the draft environmental impact statement for the Desert Rock project, water use for the project and how the expansion of BHP Billiton’s Navajo Mine would affect tribal members who live and graze livestock in the area.

The New Mexico Environment Department and others have criticized the draft permit for not including enforceable conditions to address adverse visibility and for not analyzing mercury or carbon dioxide emissions. Others have complained that a better understanding of existing air quality conditions in the Four Corners region is needed before acceptable standards can be set for Desert Rock.

Gallup Independent
Desert Rock Blog
Desert Rock Clean Air Proposed Permit