Archive for the ‘Environmentalists’ Category
Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
March 9, 2011
“Earth Hour,” started three years ago by the World Wildlife Fund and scheduled this year for March 26 at 8:30 p.m., is billing itself as “the biggest grassroots environmental movement in history.”
“Hundreds of millions of people in thousands of cities and towns on every continent will speak out with one voice,” says the promotional YouTube video. For one hour they will turn off all lights in their city and hold candles, assembling in public squares for performances and entertainment (although shots in the video indicate they may not abandon their electric sound systems).
All to prove – what? Colin McInnes, writing in Spiked Online, tackles more than a few of the presumptions behind this mass movement. “In 1859, a small farm in Pennsylvania became the site of the first successful oil well in the United States,” he begins. “[I]t had been known since 1854 that oil could be fractionated into a range of liquids including paraffin for lamps. Prior to this, oil from whales lit many American homes. So, in a reversal of the usual environmental narrative, the oil industry saved the whale.
“Improvements in energy efficiency can also be seen in the transition from wood to coal, oil, methane and uranium,” McInnes continues. “Each fuel produces more energy per unit weight and significantly less carbon. For example, one kilogram of coal can power a light bulb for four days, one kilogram of methane for six days and one kilogram of the carbon-free uranium for a remarkable 140 years. . . Modern, compact, combined-cycle gas turbines and nuclear plants now produce copious quantities of energy, but use modest amounts of steel, concrete and land. Ironically, the WWF’s vision of our energy future is based almost entirely on diffuse renewable energy that would require astronomical quantities of material, land and capital to deploy.”
So it will be nice to see the lights to off for an hour on the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge and all those other famous landmarks. Still, McInnes points out the fundamental paradox of all such “back-to-the-simple-life” efforts – they are nothing more than a transition to less efficient employment of resources. Where will all that candle wax come from? Oil, of course.
Carter Horsley, the former real estate reporter for The New York Times, once lit his apartment for two months with candles after having Con Edison cut off his electricity in a dispute over his bill. He eventually decided to go back to light bulbs. “I found burning candles was more expensive than paying for my electric bill,” he said.
Read more at Spiked Online
Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
February 2, 2011
It isn’t often you find someone in the newspaper business who is an authority with regard to nuclear energy. How much more gratifying when it is someone has served on the board of several environmental organizations.
Writing in The Baltimore Chronicle, Ajax Eastman “pulls back the curtain on wind,” contrasting it unfavorably with nuclear power. “Proponents of wind almost never compare industrial wind to nuclear power, probably because in every aspect of electricity generation nuclear beats wind by a long shot,” she says.
Moreover, she goes right to the heart of the matter by concentrating on capacity factor. “The capacity factor of the 104 nuclear reactors operating in the United States is 90 percent,” write Eastman. “In other words, nuclear facilities crank out electricity around the clock, 365 days of the year, at pretty near their total capacity.
Compare that to the results of a study from a group of wind power advocates at the University of Delaware that modeled data from off shore meteorological stations from Maine to the Florida Keys. Their results show that a large offshore turbine array would attain a 90 percent capacity factor only 2.2 days a year. . . . Even 1,200 turbines would not supply electricity as dependably as a new reactor like the one proposed at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland.”
Eastman notes that cost arguments about nuclear are misleading because they do not factor in nuclear’s low fuel costs or a reactor’s long life expectancy. “After coal, nuclear is the least costly generator of electricity for the rate payer,” she writes. “After solar, wind is the most expensive.”
Eastman has served on the board of the Maryland Environmental Trust, as past President of the Maryland Conservation Council, Co-chairman of the Maryland Wildlands Committee, and on numerous other State boards and commissions. Since Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is pushing legislation mandating that Maryland utilities buy large blocs of electricity from proposed offshore wind farms, her comments are more than timely.
Read more about it the Baltimore Sun
Thursday, January 20th, 2011
January 21, 2011
From the Editors
It seems like only a few months ago that anti-nuclear activists were telling us how we could reject nuclear technology and “go with nature” by turning to “biofuels.” Burning trees and fermenting ethanol was clean, green and “carbon neutral,” because it released carbon that was only taken from the atmosphere yesterday instead of millions of years ago as with fossil fuels.
How quickly yesterday’s ideas can go out of fashion. Last week we reported how environmental activists in Vermont and Western Massachusetts are up in arms about a 30-megawatt wood-burning power plant that is being built to replace 600 MW that will be lost with the closing of Vermont Yankee. Today the New York Times “Home and Garden” page tells us that “The Love Affair with Fireplaces Cools.” “Among those who aspire to be environmentally responsible, it is joining the ranks of bottled water and big houses,” reports Christina N. Lewis. You can’t get much more unfashionable than that.
“Not surprisingly, the green community has been sounding the alarm for some time,” writes Lewis, forgetting to tell us that it was the green community that started the craze for ethanol, wood-burning stoves and wood-burning power plants in the first place. “For the last several years, TheDailyGreen.com, an online magazine, has advocated replacing all wood-burning fireplaces with electric ones.” No mention, of course, of how the electricity would be generated. Smoke from wood burning is just as potentially damaging as smoke from cigarettes or fossil fuel plants, the Times discovers. “[G]rowing concerns about the air pollution and health problems caused by smoke from wood fires are prompting a number of areas across the country to pass laws regulating them.”
Some day the Times may also rummage through the files and discover that the revival of fireplaces in recent years was not entirely about the sweet smell of smoke in fashionable Tribeca apartments. It was also about finding “alternate sources of energy” so that we wouldn’t have to heat homes with electricity and build more power plants. Some day, if it looks hard enough, The Times may even discover that there’s a way of generating electricity that doesn’t involve noxious fumes or worrisome carbon emissions. We won’t spoil things by giving away the name now.
Read more about it at the New York Times
Monday, January 17th, 2011
January 17, 2011
The ink was hardly dry on the story that Free Flow Power was applying for federal permits to build two 3-megawatt hydroelectric dams near Bellingham, Washington when the other shoe dropped – environmental groups announced their opposition.
“We are trying to send a really strong message to a lot of people, particularly to Free Low Power. Ruth and Swamp creeks are pretty special places,’ Richard Bowers, Pacific Northwest coordinator of the Hydropower Reform Coalition told the Bellingham Herald in a next day story. Among the members of the Coalition are the Sierra Club Cascade Chapter, the North Cascades Audubon Society, and the North Cascades Conservation Council.
“Bowers said the group favors hydroelectric projects that use existing dams, either by improving the power output from existing generating facilities or by installing generating facilities where none exist today,” reports the Herald. But as several irate readers point out in the “Comments” section, the same groups are campaigning to tear down existing dams all over the Northwest – often with notable success.
Like all forms of “clean, green energy,” radical environmental groups are big supporters - until it actually comes to building something.
Clean, green nuclear power, anyone?
Read more at the Bellingham Herald
Thursday, January 6th, 2011
January 6, 2011
From the Editors
Hats off to The Energy Tribune, which has done a fabulous job of chronicling the end of Spain’s wind/solar/renewable bubble that has left the country $26 billion in debt and desperately trying to rev up nuclear power.
This week Bloomberg reports that Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who originally opposed nuclear power during his election campaign of 2009, is now looking for 70-megawatt uprates at two reactors in order to meet an anticipated shortfall of power this year. All this is coming home to consumers in the form of a 9.8 percent rate increase, as the country struggles to clean up the mess created by the solar binge.
As Energy Tribune chronicles, Spain’s “bridge to the renewable future” started off a decade ago as a well-planned market intervention. Electrical rates were held unrealistically low while the government paid renewable sources a “feed-in tariff” (i.e., guaranteed above-market price) for the new renewable sources. Solar and wind flourished and for awhile Spain was advertising itself as the pioneer of the new renewable era.
A much-disputed 2009 study said that Spain was destroying five jobs for every two “green jobs” created by pushing up the price of electricity. The study came just as President Obama was touting a similar energy scenario for the U.S. Although renewable enthusiasts mocked the report, the whole thing came home to roost in 2010 when the money finally ran out and Spain was forced to cancel $4.2 billion subsidies for solar and another $300 million for wind. The reversal – which violated all kinds of contracts – has decimated the solar industry and turned several new production centers into ghost towns.
With Spain’s teetering financial condition now threatening the entire European monetary system, there seems to be one stark lesson from the entire experience – the road to solar utopia cannot be paved with good intentions.
Read more at the Energy Tribune and Bloomberg
Thursday, December 30th, 2010
December 30, 2010
From the Editors
George F. Will discourses on the past and future of coal in today’s column and how China’s headlong rush into coal will easily undo any progress made in this country on reducing carbon emissions. The centerpiece of his story is a coal exporting terminal being constructed by an Australian firm in Cowlitz Country, Washington, across the Columbia River from Portland.
"Half of the 6 billion tons of coal burned globally each year is burned in China," write Will. "A spokesman for the Sierra Club, which in recent years has helped to block construction of 139 proposed coal-fired plants in America, says, `This is undermining everything we’ve accomplished.’ America, say environmentalists, is exporting global warming."
He also quotes James Fallows’ recent cover story in The Atlantic that tries to tell environmentalists that solar and wind will never make it and the utopia to which they must resign themselves is "Dirty Coal, Clean Future." Remarkably, Fallows makes almost no mention of nuclear in this prognosticating effort.
What Will doesn’t see coming – although he does suggest it – is that the Sierra Club will soon begin protesting coal exports as well. After all, won’t these facilities require environmental impact statements? And shouldn’t such statements include the long-range impact of global warming? After all, if California can hobble its economy – and if the EPA can try to do the same for Texas – why can’t the Sierra Club do the same thing in Cowlitz?
It’s a new angle for the Sierra Club but don’t be surprised to see them working it in the near future.
Read more in the Washington Post
Monday, December 27th, 2010
December 27, 2010
As nuclear facilities revive around the country, a typical pattern of conflict will emerge – local working-class people eager for economic development versus comfortable local aristocracies and jet-setters who shun any connection with industry and conjure up all kinds of environmental concerns.
This scenario is being played out in southern Colorado, where plans to build a uranium mill to process new output from reviving mines in the region has run up against opposition from Telluride, a ski town an hour’s drive away with a large population of second homes. “People from Telluride don’t have any business around here,” Michelle Mathews, a 31-year-old school janitor who lives near the mill site tells The New York Times. “Not everyone wants to drive to Telluride to clean hotel rooms.”
The poster boy for the opposition is Craig Pirazzi, who is described as a carpenter but is photographed as if posing for a Ralph Lauren ad. Pirazzi belongs to a group called the Paradise Valley Sustainability Association that thinks nuclear isn’t "sustainable." He recently moved to the mill region from Telluride. A study by the Sheep Mountain Alliance, another group of which Mr. Pirazzi is a member, has warned that trucks bringing slag from the revived mines "would travel on narrow country roads, stirring up dust that the study said could end up in the snowpack and water supply all over the region."
“They’re saying not in my backyard — now how big is their backyard?” complains George Glasier, a local rancher who founded Energy Fuels, the company that is trying to build the mill.
“In one aspect we’re being nimby’s by saying we will be affected by the negative aspects of this,” responds Mr. Pirazzi. “But that is a valid concern — our health, our air, our water is going to be affected by it, and we have every right to protect our property values and our health.”
The conflict will be repeated over and over again in all manner of industrial development. In affluent regions such as New York and California, the opposition has essentially won out and no new projects are likely. In states like Texas, brimming with newcomers eager for work, the developers hold sway. States such as Colorado are on the border – populated both by people eager for development but also the comfortably affluent looking to shut it all down. It is along these lines that the battle to revive nuclear will be fought.
Read more at the New York Times
Thursday, December 16th, 2010
December 16, 2010
From the Editors
Anti-nuclear groups have discovered a new way to block the development of new nuclear reactors – call in the Securities Exchange Commission.
This week the SEC suspended trading of Alternate Energy Holding Corporation (AEHI) after the Snake River Alliance orchestrated a campaign to block the company’s plans to build a nuclear reactor in rural Idaho.
In announcing the investigation, the SEC raised concerns about AEHI’s ability to fund construction of a $5 billion reactor plus compensations made to “certain AEHI officers.” "The commission cautions brokers, dealers, shareholders, and prospective purchasers that they should carefully consider the foregoing information along with all other currently available information and any information subsequently issued by the company," the SEC warned.
The probe comes at a crucial point when AEHI appearing to be making substantial progress with its admittedly ambitious plans. This week the Payette County zoning commission voted 10-to-1 to rezone AEHI’s property to accommodate a reactor. Don Gillispie, the Navy veteran who is CEO of AEHI, called the decision “monumental” and said it was “the first decision of its kind regarding a western US Greenfield nuclear site in 33 years and the first rezone ever of a Greenfield site for an independent company.” “We haven’t had any complaints from investors,” he added.
Instead, according to Sun Valley Online, the entire SEC investigation has been prompted by complaints from Snake River Alliance, which has opposed the project from day one. “The Alliance and legions of concerned Idahoans have been urging state and federal securities investigators for more than two years to examine the behavior and financial practices of AEHI,” Liz Woodruff, policy analyst for the Alliance told Sun Valley Online. “This is a company that has been misinforming Idaho investors, county officials, and others almost since arriving in Idaho four years ago today. AEHI President and CEO Don Gillispie has tried to explain away the reasons for his company’s failure to attract legitimate investors and to move this project forward, but he cannot explain away an SEC investigation. It is unfathomable that AEHI can now attract any investors with an SEC cloud over its head.”
“Woodruff, who has worked with local residents in Elmore and Payette County, . . called on Payette County officials to immediately halt their consideration of AEHI’s rezoning application, which just last week received a favorable 10-1 recommendation by the Planning and Zoning Commission to the County Commission for consideration,” the Sun Valley Online report continued. “Woodruff said. `For Payette County, it’s better late than never.’”
What is obviously shaping up, then, is the usual situation where the broad community supports a project but a highly dedicated band of activists with better access to the media and government agencies is able to neutralize popular sentiment. The pattern is seen over and over with reactors, where local support often approaches 90 percent but small, vocal activist groups are able to convince the media that there is widespread opposition. Press reports routinely declare that “NIMBY” opposition is what is holding up nuclear progress but the opposite is true. People who are most affected by reactors are usually most in favor of them.
The SEC may also discover that AEHI’s ambitions are not as impractical as they might seem. Gillispie has no illusions that he will be able to raise $5 billion to build a reactor but says AEHI plans to do all the preliminary work leading to a license application before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and then hand the project over to an established company. Many start-up ventures work this way. Since France, Korea and Japan are all offering funding and loan guarantees to support their domestic nuclear industries, the prospect that one of them might pick up the Idaho project is not all that unlikely.
In addition, although the reactor project serves as AEHI’s shop window, the company has several other potential sources of revenue. AEHI just completed its first full-scale model of an Energy Neutral Home and is planning to franchise their construction. Its Green Water World subsidiary also has an agreement with a Chinese company to market reactors for desalinization of water in the developing world.
Nuclear critics always argue that nuclear technology is completely impractical and is only being forced on the country by some gigantic “nuclear industry.” (The fact that such an industry no longer exists in the United States usually escapes them.) AEHI represents the complete opposite – a small, entrepreneurial venture working from the ground up in an attempt to realize nuclear energy’s enormous untapped potential. It’s nice to know the anti-nukes are opposed to that business model as well.
AEHI will have until December 28 to respond to the charges.
Read more about it at World Nuclear News
Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
December 2, 2010
From the Editors
â€¨"We are at a depressing moment right now, as far as the politics of climate change go,” leading Green activist and Berkeley professor Daniel Kammen told a gathering of beleaguered environmentalists in Minneapolis this week. â€¨
After Climategate and the defeat of cap-and-trade in the U.S. Senate, the future for global warming enthusiasts looks bleak. Public skepticism is on the rise. The funding juggernaut that seemed to be able to produce research grants at the drop of a hat is slowing down. "Energy is much more a marketplace or a bazaar than a moon shot," Kammen told the three-day conference at the St. Paul’s RiverCentre. "We need an energy victory more than a climate victory."â€¨
â€¨Yet if the Minneapolis gathering is any indication, it appears that environmentalists have not learned their lesson. Kammen, who was coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 and has just been hired as a renewable energy consultant to the World Bank, had nothing to suggest but more mandates for renewable energy.
â€¨â€¨“One suggestion: a national renewable energy standard similar to what Minnesota already has enacted,” reported the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. “Another idea would be pushing for so-called feed-in tariffs that encourage investment in renewable energy by paying small clean-energy producers such as small solar or wind farms a premium for clean-energy generation over a long period of time.” In other words, more subsidies.
Renewable energy has already proved itself extraordinarily uneconomical and incapable of providing round-the-clock, reliable electricity. Yet it would complement nicely with baseload nuclear power. Global warming advocates will remain an isolated minority until they fully embrace the benefits of nuclear energy.
Read more at Twin Cities
Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
November 30, 2010
Is it conceivable that a group of far-left environmentalists and far-right Tea Party insurgents can combine to take on perhaps the most powerful political constituency in the United States Senate, the farm lobby?
Maybe if they have Al Gore behind them.
A diverse coalition that included the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Freedom Works, The American Taxpayers Union, the American Conservative Union, and the National Chicken Council sent a joint letter yesterday to both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asking them to discontinue the ethanol tax credit when it expires in January.
“Congress has the opportunity to end the $6 billion a year subsidy to gasoline refiners who blend corn ethanol into gasoline,” said the letter. “At a time of spiraling deficits, we do not believe Congress should continue subsidizing gasoline refiners for something that they are already required to do by the Renewable Fuels Standard.”
Conservatives, of course, have long been opposed to the tax subsidy as throwing good government money after a bad idea. Maverick scientists such as Dr. David Pimentel of Cornell have also long argued that ethanol was not even producing any new energy, since it requires large inputs from fossil fuels to grow corn.
Now environmental activists have joined, with even Al Gore admitting last week that subsidizing ethanol was a mistake and that he only did it to curry favor with Iowa farmers during his Presidential campaign.
World food organizations have long been expressing their alarm as well, since competition from biofuels drives up the price of corn. That’s the reason for the Chicken Council – chickens live on corn. In 2007, a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food condemned biofuels as a “crime against humanity.”
So does all this mean the ethanol subsidy – initiated in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter – will be ending? Don’t bet on it. Each farm state has two Senators and with over 200 ethanol distilleries up and running in the Midwest there won’t be many votes in favor. And even if the tax credit is eliminated, federal mandates that all gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol will remain.
As the late economics professor Arthur Nelson postulated in Nelson’s 3rd Law, “The more a government subsidy distorts the market, the harder it is to get rid of it.”
Read more about it at the Hill blog