renewable energy

Thu, 2011-05-12 17:05Mike Casey
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Lessons from PFC Restrepo’s Mother

Cross-posted from The Great Energy Challenge.

The incredibly brave work of the U.S. Special Forces team that killed Osama bin Laden brought some badly needed, uplifting news. It gave Americans welcome, if temporary, relief from steady news of American lives lost in the Middle East.

You can really feel that weight of the sacrifice our people are making to defend America watching Sebastian Junger’s moving film, “Restrepo.” The film documents the service and sacrifice of the U.S Army’s Second Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. The film is named after Private First Class (PFC) Juan Sebastián Restrepo, one of the first in the unit killed after arriving in Afghanistan.

Thu, 2011-01-27 05:00Emma Pullman
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Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife: Not Even Canadians are Safe from the Kochs Anymore

Koch Brothers

From Koch Industries’ roots as “the biggest company you’ve never heard of”, David and Charles Koch have become household names for funding climate change denial and efforts to steer the United States away from a clean energy future.  They suffered a little hiccup when California voters failed to buy the arguments of the dirty oil interests bankrolling Prop 23.  Then, when David Koch was booed at the Nutcracker ballet just before Christmas, it started to look like the tides were shifting on public opinion around the billionaire brothers. 

Despite the headway made in holding the Koch Brothers to account, they’ve creeped their way into Canada. 

Well, let me be clear.  It’s not as though Koch Industries is a totally foreign force in Canada. Koch and its subsidiaries currently operate in seven Canadian provinces, and according to a Greenpeace report, Koch has held multiple leases in Alberta’s tar sands, and since the 1990s the Koch Pipeline Company has operated the pipelines that carry tar sands crude from Canada into Minnesota and Wisconsin where Koch’s Flint Hill Resources owns oil refineries.

On the policy development front, they’ve busily bankrolled Canada’s Fraser Institute to the tune of $175,000 between 2005 and 2008 to ensure Canada remains in the Stone Ages when it comes to environmental policy.  

This time though, it’s gotten political.  According to Chris Genovali’s piece in the Huffington Postrenewable energy in Ontario is under attack by the Kochtopus.

Tue, 2010-11-23 10:39Emma Pullman
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Gore Admits Corn Ethanol Support Was A Mistake

At a green business conference on Monday, Al Gore admitted that his support for corn ethanol subsidies was a mistake. This news comes weeks before tax credits are up for renewal.

U.S. tax breaks for ethanol make it profitable for refiners to use the fuel even when it is more expensive than gasoline.  Total ethanol subsidies reached $7.7 billion last year according to the International Energy Agency. In fact, biofuels worldwide received more subsidies than any other form of renewable energy.

Gore argued that “It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for [U.S.] first-generation ethanol”.  Giving extraordinary subsidies to first generation feedstocks was a mistake, he says.  “The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.”

Tue, 2010-08-31 10:01Kevin Grandia
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Clean energy drowned out in Washington by a Two Billion Dollar Juggernaut

Red State bloggers are all in a tizzy over an Open Secrets article showing that the American Wind Energy Association spent over $5 million last year on lobbying politicians in Washington, DC.

It’s about time we started seeing the clean energy sector make its voice heard on Capitol Hill and I hope we see more people pushing lawmakers to consider legislation that promotes the use of clean and unlimited sources of energy like the sun and the wind.

But the hair-pulling by Red State bloggers is more than a little ridiculous when you consider that the American Wind Energy Association’s $5 million lobby expenditure is equal to about 5 minutes of lobbying by the oil and gas lobby which spent a whopping $175 million in the same time period.

Looking over the last ten years, the numbers are even more startling.

Sun, 2009-06-07 14:46Jeanne Roberts
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Allen Doing Coal’s Dirty Work

In 2006, at a campaign rally in Virginia, when former Republican Senator George Felix Allen was running against James Webb, Allen got called out by none other than the Washington Post for repeatedly calling a Webb campaign volunteer a “macaca” (you can see the quoted text here).

The word reportedly derives from Bantu, and means “monkey”. In the Belgian Congo, the word is used to refer to the native population. Allen’s persistent repetition of the word earned him the reigning championship in the xenophobe category, and the term itself was awarded the status of “most politically incorrect” word of 2006 by Global Language Monitor, a nonprofit entity that studies and tracks word usage and dialect.

Fri, 2009-04-24 12:10Jeanne Roberts
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Wellinghoff, Adams, Obama; Is Hope Dangerous?

Just in time for ABC’s quote from environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. calling President Barack Obama an indentured servant of the coal industry (and Kennedy’s later retraction), comes the pronouncement from none other than the chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Jon Wellinghoff (who joined the FERC under Bush), that the U.S. may never need another coal plant. Or nuclear plant, Wellinghoff added, noting that the concept of baseload capacity (i.e., coal-fired power plants running 24.7) may become a thing of the past.

Wellinghoff seems to suggest that renewable energy can be used in a complimentary fashion; wind kicking in on cloudy days, solar taking up the load on calm days, biomass filling the interstices and technologically advanced energy storage systems balancing the load. Currently, the U.S. has more than 10 percent of its power mix in renewables – and that includes a whopping 6.6 percent in hydroelectric (January 2009). But throw in advanced energy efficiencies, demand-side management (DSM; think crowd control for delivery), and some truly revolutionary advances like molted salt technology, and one begins to see the possibilities.

Mon, 2009-04-13 13:05Jeanne Roberts
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Congress and Renewables, Going Whichever Way the Wind Blows

A recent Forbes’ article on Vestas Wind’s CEO, Ditlev Engel, and his determination to make wind energy succeed in America, brings to mind the real problem behind renewable energy in the U.S; Congress tends to swing whichever way the wind blows (pun intended).

Vestas came to the U.S. in the wake of the OPEC oil crisis/embargo in 1973. Then, when oil prices dropped in the 1980s, Vestas – like many other renewable energy startups – went bust because the government let renewable energy tax incentives lapse for lack of interest. This effectively dried up venture capital.

Wed, 2009-04-01 10:40Leslie Berliant
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The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009; Draft One

Nancy PelosiIs 2009 the year of climate and energy legislation?

It is if you believe Speaker Nancy Pelosi who called the passage of such legislation “an inevitability” on a conference call this morning regarding a discussion draft (pdf) of The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) released today by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA).

Pelosi promised to support a process that would help “remove misconceptions”, i.e. combat big oil’s PR campaign against any meaningful cap on emissions, and at the same time, promising that legislation “won’t go as slow as the slowest ship”,  i.e. Congress won’t wait around for Republicans like John Shimkus (R-IL) who absurdly claim that limiting CO2 will kills plants, to get on board.

The draft legislation could also be called a jobs bill, an economic stimulus package, an energy independence act and a public health bill. Brad Johnson over at the Wonk Room calls it Green Economy legislation, pointing out that investments in renewable energy will help restore American economic leadership at a time when only 6 of the top 30 solar firms globally are U.S. companies.

The only way to grow the economy is to invest in new technologies and create new green jobs,” Speaker Pelosi said this morning, repeating President Obama’s refrain. One might also add that the only way to save the economy is to stop climate change, which will cost us untold trillions in mitigation, adaptation, health and security costs if it continues unchecked. Perhaps it’s time to call out those opposing clean energy and emissions reductions (and lying about the costs, too) as anti-growth, weak on security and actively working against maintaining public health.

Thu, 2009-01-22 19:10Jeremy Jacquot
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Obama's Green Stimulus: Big Enough to Do the Trick?

Just how ambitious will Barack Obama’s clean energy package be? During the campaign, he pledged to invest $150 billion in new projects over the next decade and create 5 million well-paying green-collar jobs.

While there was some trepidation about whether Obama, facing an ever-worsening economic crisis, would keep his word, the release of the long-awaited $825 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009 last week seems to have quelled most doubts.

To no one’s surprise, a large chunk of the stimulus – over $90 billion – will go to funding “shovel-ready” transportation and public infrastructure projects.

Thirty-two billion dollars will be used to create a “smart electricity grid” to cut waste, and over $20 billion will be devoted to renewable energy tax cuts and credits for research and development on energy efficiency and energy conservation.

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