Archive for the ‘Renewables’ Category
Thursday, January 27th, 2011
January 27, 2011
Press reports on the reaction to the President’s call for 80 percent “clean energy” by 2035 are finding a surprisingly tepid response in the renewable energy industry.
“[I]ndustry officials were less than enthused and questioned whether the ambitious targets were even attainable,” reports the Los Angeles Times. "It’s a lofty goal, but it’s like the race to the moon in that it’s generally achievable," the Times quotes John Cheney, chief executive of solar project developer Silverado Power, as saying. "The issue is whether we have the political will and ability to pull together and actually do it."
The reason is not hard to find. Obama’s shift from “renewable” energy to “clean” energy marks a significant turning point since it includes nuclear power and “clean coal.” “[T]he Sierra Club is firmly opposed to the misconception that coal or nuclear power can ever be clean,” said the Club in a press release. “Nuclear energy, with its multi-thousand year wastes, imported uranium, and susceptibility to terrorism,” fulminated Scott Sklar, chairman of the steering committee, Sustainable Energy Coalition, and former executive director, Solar Energy and Biomass Industries Associations. “Attempts to foster coal and nuclear into a CES is another ploy to re-label non-renewable technologies and ooze them into a ‘clean’ brand.”
The ever-reliable Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, weighed in with similar remarks. “Some of the largest environmental and health impacts of nuclear energy and coal will be borne by generations far into the future. . .. In contrast, the modest impacts of renewable energy are borne by the generations that use the energy, so that future generations can replace the facilities with better techniques as they are developed."
Makhijani forgot to mention that renewable sources also produce only modest amounts of energy.
The misgivings of the renewables industry and the loud protests from anti-nuclear activists have one common root. Both know that the President’s goal of 80 percent “clean energy” by 2035 is inconceivable without the inclusion of nuclear power. They also know that wind and solar will require huge subsidies and mandates. Next to them, the loan guarantees needed for new nuclear plants are likely to look modest.
No wonder President Obama’s call for “clean energy” is not meeting much enthusiasm from those who were expected to support it the most.
Read more at the Los Angeles Times
Wednesday, January 12th, 2011
January 12, 2011
Calling the Obama Administration’s energy planners “The Green Dream Team,” Gary Jason, an instructor at Cal State Fullerton, has charged that “American is under an environmental spell” while China proceeds apace with nuclear technology.
“We continue to stall on nuclear power, keep a moratorium on deepwater oil production, lock up ever-increasing amounts of land and coastal shelf from energy use, put ever-multiplying regulations in the way of using our vast coal and shale-oil reserves, and haven’t built a hydroelectric or nuclear facility in years,” writes Jason in the Orange County Register. “The Obama administration, aka the Green Dream Team, has fully bought the environmentalist line that renewable energy sources (especially wind and solar power) will provide the ideal power from now on, and is preparing to unleash the EPA to wage jihad on fossil-fuel energy.”
Jason relies strongly on the report, "The Real Story behind China’s Energy Policy and What America Can Learn from It,” put out last month by the Republican minority on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The report makes the important point that China includes nuclear, hydroelectric, clean coal in their plans for carbon-free energy.
“There is a myth – accepted by this administration – that unless we cripple our fossil fuel industries by cap-and-tax and embrace `clean energy’ (which is never taken by environmentalists to include nuclear power), we will lose the `green energy race’ with China, which is supposed to be rapidly adopting solar and wind power,” writes Jason. “But, as the Senate report correctly comments, `The “clean energy race” between the U.S. and China – and the lament that America is losing – is an idea concocted by activists to promote cap-and-trade, renewable energy mandates, and greater government control of the economy.’"
It is strange to read Thomas Friedman fulminating on how China is going to beat the pants off us on windmills and solar collectors when most of those devices are being sold abroad to gullible Western governments. Meanwhile, the Chinese plan on adding 100 GW of nuclear in the next 20 years, three times as much as the rest of the world combined. Sometimes it takes an untenured instructor at a state college to point these things out.
Jason is also a contributing editor at www.libertyunbound.com.
Read more at the Orange County Register
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
Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
December 22, 2010
One thing you learn quickly in Washington is that to get any major piece of legislation passed, you have to include something for everybody. Thus, whatever energy bill may emerge from the 212th Congress is likely to include just about everything.
“With Republicans set to assume control of the House and take more seats in the Senate in January, increasing chatter on energy policy has focused on a more comprehensive standard that would go beyond a pure RES to include nuclear and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies,” reports Gloria Gonzalez at OilPrice.com. `“Renewable is out,’ said John Juech, vice-president, policy analysis for consultancy Garten Rothkopf in Washington, DC. `Clean is the new language.’”
But what’s clean? The more appropriate question might be, “What isn’t?”
The standard would work well for nuclear energy, since it would at last put the atom on an equal footing with wind, solar and the other “renewables.” More than half the states now have “renewable standards” and windmill and solar developers are now throwing up huge complexes without any regard to what it will cost consumers or how these intermittent sources will be incorporated onto the grid.
Then last week, J. Wayne Leonard, CEO of Entergy, owner of the nation’s second largest nuclear fleet, argued in The Wall Street Journal that natural gas has to be included in any kind of “clean standard.” So what’s left? Dirty old coal. But you can bet the powerful coal states will find some way to have that grandfathered in as well.
Probably the best thing to do would be to remove all mandates, subsidies and tax incentives and let the market decide. We’d mostly put up natural gas plants but some far-sighted utility executives would also think about making an 80-year investment in a nuclear reactor. Then the problem would be getting a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and wading through the blizzard of lawsuits from nuclear opponents. Sovereign wealth funds from France, Japan, Korea or even Russia or China would probably fund the whole ordeal.
Yet if Gonzalez is right, we may instead get an everybody-on-board “clean energy standard” that instructs utilities to build wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, gas, nuclear, clean coal – take your pick. That will be our new “national energy policy.”
Read more about it at Oil Price
Monday, November 29th, 2010
November 29, 2010
From the Editors
â€¨One thing you can bet on – no matter how much environmental extremists tell you they are in favor of something, when it comes to building it they will be against it.â€¨
That’s what has happened in the California desert, where San Diego Gas & Electric has spent seven years and $100 million trying to start construction on the 117-mile Sunrise Powerlink, a transmission line designed to carry wind, solar and geothermal energy to San Diego.
â€¨â€¨“Where else in the world in the same area do you have wind, spectacular solar and geothermal?” asks Michael R. Niggli, chairman of San Diego G&E in this New York Times report. But it is exactly this convergence of energy resources that bothers transmission-line opponents. “Our whole area will be transformed into an industrial energy park,” Donna Tisdale, who has filed a suit to block the transmission line, told The Times.
â€¨â€¨Of course you can’t blame her. Wind and solar take up ridiculous amounts of land. The Stirling Energy Systems’ 700-megawatt solar facility, scheduled for the desert region, will occupy ten square miles. That output represents a midday maximum. The Stirling engine has never been tested in a facility larger than 25 kilowatts. A nuclear reactor, on the other hand, would require only one square mile to generate 1000 MW around the clock.
With their usual tales for conspiracy, opponents argue that the real purpose of the Sunrise line is to pick up electricity being generated in Mexico from natural gas. “They’re using wind as a cover,” Ms. Tinsdale told the Times. What’s truly amazing is that the utility has been forced to go to Mexico in order to site the liquid natural gas terminals required to supply the plants. Environmental opposition has pushed those facilities out of the country.
â€¨â€¨In order to court favor with the public, SDG&E has built a $38 million helicopter that will drop the transmission towers into remote locations so that no access roads will have to be built. Even that has not made much of an impression.
â€¨The Times’ article cites a recent government study which showed that pushing renewable energy up to 20 percent of electricity – a common goal of state mandates – will require construction of 12,000 to 20,000 miles of transmission lines just like the 117-mile Sunrise Powerlink. If the San Diego experience, it won’t happen any time soon.
Read more about it at the New York Times
Friday, November 26th, 2010
November 26, 2010
Does GM’s IPO mean it is finally standing on its own instead of being propped up by the government? Not according to Bloomberg News.
A report this week says that almost one quarter of all electric hybrids sold in the past two years have been bought by the federal government. The buying has become particularly intense since President Obama took office.
Ford has benefited as well. According to data obtained by the Freedom of Information Act, the U.S. General Services Administration bought 14,500 hybrids in the last two years, about 10 percent of all the agency’s purchases.“The government purchased about 64 percent of GM’s Chevy Malibu hybrid models and 29 percent of all Ford Fusion hybrids manufactured since Obama took office in 2009, the data show,” reports Bloomberg.
“GM stopped making the Malibu hybrid in 2009 after lack of consumer demand. GSA also bought about 14 percent of Ford Escape hybrids.” The government purchased virtually no Toyota Priuses or Honda Civics.
The drive to prop up hybrid sales comes at a time when consumer demand for the technology seems to be fading. Hybrids are experiencing their third straight year of decline and have peaked at around 2 percent of passenger car sales. “Without a huge gas-price increase or further government demand, the natural demand just doesn’t seem to be there,” Jeff Schuster, director of forecasting at J.D. Power & Associates told Bloomberg.
Now, under government guidance, GM is trying to expand the market by introducing an all-electric model.Anybody want to buy a Volt?
Read more at Bloomberg News
Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
November 23, 2010
From the Editors
General Jubilation T. Cornpone was the Civil War hero of Li’l Abner’s Dogpatch of whom it was sung: “With our ammunition gone and facing utter defeat / Who was it who burned the crops so we had nothing to eat.”
It’s been suggested on Nuclear Townhall that the Department of Energy ought to erect a statue of Gen. Cornpone outside its offices in honor of its support of corn ethanol. The 30-year-old government policy has not only wasted energy but placed significant upward pressure on food prices.
Now Al Gore has made a play to be remembered along with Gen. Cornpone when it comes to ethanol subsidies. Speaking at an international energy conference in Athens this week, the Nobel-Prize-winning finally admitted ethanol wasn’t such a great idea."It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first generation ethanol," said Gore at the green energy conference sponsored by Marfin Popular Bank. "First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small. [But i]t’s hard once such a program is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going."
Gore was speaking, of course, of the entire American Midwest, which has now built nearly a quarter of its economy around ethanol subsidies. Dozens of ethanol distilleries have been built at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars and 40 percent of the corn crop now goes into our gas tanks.
Moreover, Gore was also willing to admit that he originally supported ethanol subsidies to kowtow to farmers and that the government-initiated push into biofuels has pushed up world fuel prices. "The size, the percentage of corn particularly, which is now being (used for) first generation ethanol definitely has an impact on food prices,” he said. “The competition . . is real."
The former Vice President may be modeling for that statue real soon.
Read more about it at Reuters
Thursday, November 11th, 2010
If you think corn ethanol has become one of the nation’s biggest boondoggles, wait until you see where the Environmental Protection Agency has in store for the nation’s utility industries.
EPA pulled back the curtain yesterday with new rules saying that utilities will be allowed to escape the carbon regulations that begin next January if they switch to burning farm and woodland wastes instead of coal.
“The new guidance allows for the substitution of biomass — wood waste, switchgrass or other agricultural products — for fossil fuels as a way to meet the new air quality rules,” reports The New York Times. “Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that would generate new income opportunities for American farmers and forestry companies while reducing global warming emissions.”
It is hard to imagine a more insane energy policy – although it certainly seems plausible that it could happen. Already several utilities around the country have substituted wood wastes for coal under the illusion that they are helping global warming.
The policy will also be sure to “generate new income opportunities for farmers and forestry companies” as farmers forget about feeding people and simply load up their crops for shipment to the nearest power plant. That is what already happens with the nation’s corn crop, where farmers now send 30 percent of their harvest to the nearest ethanol distillery, driving up food prices around the world. The UN Food and Agricultural Organizations regularly calls biofuels “a crime against humanity,” but nobody in this country pays much attention.
Biofuels in power plants will double down on this tortured policy. Massachusetts has already backed away from a wood-burning mandate after realizing that wood wastes are nowhere near adequate and that people will soon be chopping down the state’s forests to feed the power plants. The administration of Democratic Governor Deval Patrick came after a study by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences found burning wood would actually produce more greenhouse gases than burning coal.
It’s not hard to see out why. Wood has only half the energy density of coal and is widely scattered across the landscape so it requires much more energy to gather and harvest. A landmark study published in Science in 2008 found that substituting biofuels for fossil fuels does not become “carbon neutral” for 90 years. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee calls biofuels “a controlled bonfire.”
Nevertheless, based on scuttlebutt from the environmental community, the Obama Administration is charging ahead. In doing so, they will be following in the footsteps of General Jubilation T. Cornpone, of “Li’l Abner” fame, of whom it was sung:
“With out ammunition gone and facing utter defeat,
Who was it who burned the crops so we had nothing to eat.”
Someday the Administration may want to erect a statue of General Cornpone in front of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Read more at the New York Times’ Green blog
Monday, November 8th, 2010
Nuclear opponents may scoff at the high costs of new reactor construction, but renewable energy projects are facing the same problems in the face of a slack economy and low coal and natural gas prices.
Matt Wald and Tom Zeller, Jr. tackle the issue today on the front page of The New York Times and predictably come up with the solution – more government subsidies and mandates for renewable energy. Comparisons with imagined advances in China and Europe are trotted out while nuclear energy is not even mentioned, in keeping with the protocol that nuclear and renewable energy have no relation to each other and exist only on separate planets.
The scorecard on renewables is indeed telling. The American Wind Energy Association reports that windmill construction this year will decline 72 percent from 2009. Inadequate subsidies and growing resistance from state regulatory agencies are the problem. Rhode Island officials recently turned down the purchase off offshore wind at 24.4 cents per kilowatt-hour for a utility that is currently paying 9.5 cents per kWh – imagine that! Utility commissions in Kentucky, Virginia and Florida have recently made similar decisions. Apparently the enthusiasm for littering the landscape with 45-story wind towers does not extend far outside the Beltway and California.
Solar energy is not faring any better. After twenty years of subsidies and headlines, the entire national capacity stands at 400 MW – two-thirds the output of Oyster Creek, the nation’s second commercial reactor, built in 1969. California has commissioned a 2000-MW solar installation that will cover 45 square miles of desert, but only after adopting a 33-percent renewable mandate by 2020. Costs may run three times as high as normal electricity but California consumers will just have to swallow the difference.
Wald and Zeller hold up the usual mirage of foreign progress without any qualifications. “In its most recent quarterly assessment of the renewable energy sector,” they write, “the accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young identified China as the most attractive market for investment in renewable energy.” However, most of these windmills and solar panels are being manufactured for export to Western countries.
“In Europe, many national governments have guaranteed prices for energy from sun or wind,” they continue. “As a result, renewable advocates say, many countries are on track to meet the European Union‘s goal of 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.” And most aren’t. Denmark has achieved 14 percent wind generation but has given itself the highest electrical prices in Europe, four times that of the United States. Spain practically ruined its economy by pumping up a huge solar bubble and then watching it burst. For a country that has achieved success you need only look to France – cheapest electricity in Europe, second lowest carbon emissions, 75 percent nuclear.
Renewable energy and nuclear energy in the U.S. both face the same problem – cheap natural gas, cheap old coal plants, and a slack economy. Some kind of carbon pricing would benefit both. Yet supporters of renewable energy have never deigned to align with nuclear energy, which they see as an either/or scenario. Instead, so-called Greens mock the initial costs of reactors while remaining confident that public subsidies and vast popular favor toward renewables will carry the day. It isn’t working.
Read more at the New York Times
Sunday, November 7th, 2010
Counterpunch, a liberal-oriented Internet newsletter, isn’t the place where you’d expect to find an anti-renewables tract. But the latest edition gives full exposure to Dr. Nina Pierpont’s work on “wind turbine syndrome.” Dr. Pierpont, a pioneer in the field, has written a book, “Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Report on a Natural Experiment” (2009), in which she outlines the health effects of living near giant contemporary windmills.
“Sometimes it’s advantageous being a country doctor,” she writes. “Six years ago I began hearing health complaints from people living in the shadow of these gigantic turbines. At first it was merely local and regional, then global. Tellingly, virtually everyone described the same constellation of symptoms.” Symptoms included sleep disturbance, headaches, vertigo, nausea and loss of concentration and memory.
Patients said the symptoms disappeared quickly when they left their homes, then reappeared when they got back. Several people finally locked up their homes and moved out. Pierpont eventually found research by Dr. Alec Salt of Washington University that traced the problems to effect of sound waves below the range of human hearing on the cochlea or inner year. “[T]he cochlea . . . responds to infrasound without registering it as sound. Infrasound, in fact, increases pressure inside both the cochlea . . , distorting both balance and hearing. Salt thus effectively shatters the dogma that `what you can’t hear, can’t hurt you.’ It can indeed hurt you. The growing uproar among wind turbine neighbors testifies to this inconvenient truth.”
Pierpont says the wind industry has been completely unresponsive to this research. “They ridicule it as hysteria and NIMBYism (`Not In My Back Yard!’),” she writes.
Requests that industry or government require windmills to be sited at least 2 kilometers from residential dwellings have so far been ignored.