Archive for June, 2010

Solar Around The Corner

Posted By brianm on June 29th, 2010

By Brian Mahar

I guess the definition of “scaling” means that we start small. And that’s what’s going on with solar now in Tigercomm’s neck of the woods. Today I just spotted solar trash compactors along the streets of Rosslyn, Virginia, around the corner from our office.

Check out this NPR piece to learn more about this technology.

They are definitely not on the same scale as AREVA Solar’s 5-megawatt Kimberlina solar thermal power plant (I’ll write about my recent trip there later), but they’re a step in the right direction.

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Senator Byrd: His Legacy vs. His Vision

Posted By mikec on June 28th, 2010

Senator Robert Byrd passed away early this morning, just days after a study showing that coal is a money loser for his home state of West Virginia.

The interests of the coal industry and the senator were intertwined for nearly all of Byrd’s 51 years in the Senate. He saw the heyday of coal production and cheap fuel; the mechanization of mining, and with it, the birth of mountain top removal. In 2009, as detailed in the report by West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy (WVCBP) and consulting firm Downstream Strategies, the coal industry accounted for “nine percent of state employment.”

Along with these jobs, coal also brought a terrible cost to West Virginia – polluted waterways, health and safety threats, and the rise of the likes of Don Blankenship.

In a bitter irony, the state’s roads, which were the biggest infrastructure success for the Senator (who once vowed to be his state’s “billion dollar industry” when he took over the Appropriations Committee), are also a victim of the coal-induced legacy.

“One of the largest “legacy” costs has been highway repairs from trucks that haul coal and destroy West Virginia’s roads in the process. The total cost required to fix the damage is $4 billion, according to the report,” writes Stacey Feldman on the blog Solve Climate.

As a renowned lover of poetry and history, one can only imagine that Senator Byrd viewed his coal successes with mixed emotions.

It’s worth noting that in the last few years of his life, Byrd began turning away from unqualified support for the coal industry. In an op-ed published this past December, Byrd wrote that “the time has come to have an open and honest dialogue about coal’s future in West Virginia.”

He continued: “West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it, or resist and be overrun by it. One thing is clear.  The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose.”

Senator Byrd’s comments, made months before the BP Gulf Disaster, seem applicable to the entire country, and to all forms of dirty energy. Americans fundamentally get that. They don’t want dirty energy lobbyists running government, or oil disaster clean ups, or even serving as the investment vehicles for corrupt federal judges who then look after them.

Senator Byrd wrote “the time has arrived” for change. He was right.

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Stamping Out Dirty Fossil Fuels

Posted By admin on June 24th, 2010

After 9/11, Americans were forced to recognize the reality of global terrorism – a reality that other countries had been wrestling with for decades.

The BP oil disaster, which President Obama has likened to an environmental 9/11, is forcing us to recognize another painful reality with global implications – the true cost of energy.

This cost can be measured in a number of ways. One measurement, of course, is the ever-increasing toll on the Gulf coast’s environment and economy.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency released a second measure – the cost of the American Power Act, the energy bill slowly making its way through Congress.

The EPA reckons that from this year through 2050, the average American household would pay between $79 to $146 extra a year for energy.

A subsequent article on Grist provided some perspective on what that would mean to our individual bottom lines. For example, $146 a year is:

These comparisons make the increased cost of energy seem almost nonexistent. But the fact is that when you pay more for something, you tend to value it more.

As Derek Thompson writes in The Atlantic, “When something is free, you tend to use more of it. It’s true for buffets and open bars, and it’s the same with carbon. … Carbon emissions have a cost, but carbon emitters don’t pay the price. Economists call this a ‘market failure.’ You can call it, ‘a recipe for toasting the planet.’”

As we are all so painfully aware, BP has given us live feed of what “toasting the planet” looks like.

As The American Energy Act continues to make its way through Congress, we demand they come up with a fast, effective and economical plan toward a cleantech future.

Because sometimes nothing hurts like a hit to the pocketbook. Just ask any fisherman on the Mississippi coast.

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Top Five Ways to Bring Accountability to Ocean Drilling

Posted By mikec on June 21st, 2010

Trying to answer the troubling questions about how the BP Oil Disaster was allowed to happen keeps turning up the same catastrophic mixture of lies, mismanagement, corner cutting, and recklessness. It’s clear now that the oil companies know how to get oil from deep underwater, but have no idea how to prevent or stop a disaster with any reliability.

How could we have given companies with such inherently destructive practices access to priceless public property, when they had no ability to care for it? Who let them do this?

The Department of Energy’s Minerals Management Service (MMS), particularly under George Bush, was the center of this corrupt permissiveness. Inspectors on drugs, revolving door deals for staff, prostitutes, and chronic understaffing. The accounts are a like a horror show, almost as bad as the destruction to our Gulf that BP is inflicting. As Rolling Stone Magazine reports, the deals birthed in those unholy alliances include oil executives giving MMS managers cash and gifts in exchange for pushing through risky offshore leases, turning a blind eye to suspect environmental reviews, and allowing oil execs to write their own inspection reports.

Candidate Obama promised to reign in the corruption at MMS. Once elected, however, his actions proved slow, ineffective and (in some cases) downright counterproductive.

Secretary of Energy Ken Salazar, the “new sheriff in town,” failed in his promises to enforce higher standards and accountability – even as he raised offshore drilling to record levels.

Earlier this month, President Obama appointed Michael Bromwich as the new director of MMS. Seeking to go even further in its attempts at reform, the administration announced yesterday it had renamed the entire agency.

Bromwich will now head up the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement, or BOE.

The former MMS website declared the agency’s mission was “to manage the ocean energy and mineral resources … to enhance public and trust benefits, promote responsible use, and realize fair value.”

To help him with his new responsibilities, Scaling Green has created our Top Five Recommendations for bringing BOE into the 21st century – a century of transparency and accountability

  1. Make lobbyists of regulated industries log their interactions with BOE staff online.
  2. Have communications with industry people by BOE staff be accessible through the Freedom of Information Act.
  3. Videotape all inspections in their entirety – and post them online.
  4. Make key data public, including environmental and safety inspection reports.
  5. Pass the Amendment to the Restoring American Financial Stability Act, which would require all oil, gas, and mining companies to register with the US Securities and Exchange Commission and report how much they pay governments for access to their natural resources. This act was passed by the Senate in May and is now being reconciled in the House.

We know what the Decades of Deregulation and Denial have wrought.

We are now at the beginning of what we call the Decade of Decision – the moment to act is here and now.

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A Coal-Lump in the Sky

Posted By mikec on June 16th, 2010

On the heels of President Obama’s renewed call for clean energy technologies in last night’s Oval Office speech, we’re particularly baffled by this piece in The Examiner detailing how the US Air Force is now testing a coal-based jet fuel.


This fuel is derived from a process perfected by top corporate welfare recipient, ExxonMobil, and is a powerful example of the types of projects in which Big Oil continues to invest the bulk of their time and money – as opposed to jobs and clean energy. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2009 that ExxonMobil was increasing its capital budget by 11 percent, spending $29 billion this year alone on finding, drilling and refining fossil fuels and chemicals.

So, the President says we need to get off fossil fuels, but we’re going to give ExxonMobil, the most profitable company in the history of mankind, even more tax money for a coal-lump-in-the sky project. Contrast that with Virgin CEO Sir Richard Branson’s 2006 announcement that his companies were developing jet fuels not derived from fossil energy.

As The New York Times reported at the time, “Sir Richard said the prime goal was not making money, but financing research on ways to provide energy in a world of growing populations and economies without overheating the planet.”

Why is Richard Branson four years ahead of the US Air Force that Barrack Obama runs? Why are we trying to power planes with the dirtiest fuel on the planet? As publicly held corporations, we understand Big Oil is in the business of making money by jeopardizing with dirty energy. Why do we get to underwrite it?

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