Archive for April, 2012

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (4/30/12)

Posted By Lowell F. on April 30th, 2012

Here are five recommended reads for today (4/30/12)

  1. Clean Technica reports: “India’s ambitious national solar program has catalyzed rapid growth in the solar market, driving prices for solar energy to impressive lows and demonstrating how government policy can stimulate clean energy markets, according to a report released this month by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).”
  2. According to Inside Climate News, “As debate over the future of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline continues to boil in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail, energy companies are proceeding with many other pipeline projects that would give large amounts of Canadian crude access to foreign markets within the next five years.”
  3. Business Green reports, “The renewable energy industry has hit back at a report claiming a “dramatic proliferation” of wind turbines is blighting the English countryside, warning “an unrepresentative minority using exaggerated statistics” should not be allowed to derail public support for the technology.”
  4. According to BloombergBusinessweek, “German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s effort to create jobs in renewable energy is faltering as subsidy cuts and competition from Chinese manufacturers forces the industry to stop hiring for the first time in eight years.”
  5. David Roberts of Grist reports on the International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) “latest, annual progress report [PDF] on clean energy.” The bottom line, according to Roberts, is that “[p]rogress is inadequate — relative to the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees C — on virtually every low-carbon technology except onshore wind and solar.”
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New Report Finds 49 Coal-Fired Power Plants with Groundwater Contamination Exceeding Federal, State Standards

Posted By Lowell F. on April 27th, 2012

Yesterday, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) put out a press release regarding a new report on groundwater contamination at coal-fired power plants. According to EIP:

At least 49 [coal-fired] power plants have acknowledged groundwater contamination at levels that exceed federal or state standards, according to data submitted to the USEPA Office of Water and obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request…

These pollutants include:

  • Arsenic (a potent carcinogen) at no fewer than 22 plants;
  • Manganese (a metal that can damage the nervous system in high concentrations) at 22;
  • Boron (a pollutant that can cause damage to the stomach, intestines, liver, kidney, and brain when ingested in large amounts) at 12;
  • Selenium (a toxic pollutant that causes adverse health effects at high exposures) at 13; and
  • Cadmium (a toxic pollutant that can damage the kidneys, lungs, and bones) at 10.

Those, of course, are in addition to the many other pollutants – carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, particulates, lead – of the air and water put out by coal-fired power plants, not to mention the process of mining the coal in the first place.  In sum, there’s absolutely nothing “clean” about coal, despite the industry’s fallacious claim that such a thing as “clean coal” exists.  To the contrary, coal plants pollute and we need to do something to clean them up ASAP.

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“If I wanted America to fail”: Funded by the Usual Suspects – for the Usual Reasons

Posted By Lowell F. on April 27th, 2012

Earlier this week, The Hill reported on a “free-market group” that “has scored a hit with an ominous, gloomy video warning that environmental regulations and restrictions on fossil fuels are putting America on a path to ruin.”  According to this video, entitled “If I wanted America to fail”:

If I wanted America to fail…to suffer not prosper…I’d start with energy, I’d cut off America’s supply of cheap, abundant energy…make Americans feel guilty about using the energy that heats their homes, fuels their cars…I’d make cheap energy expensive so that expensive energy would seem cheap…I’d imply that America’s cities and factories could run on wind power and wishes…I’d demonize prosperity…I would ridicule as flat earthers those who urge them to lower energy costs by increasing supply…I would transform the environmental agenda from a document of conservation to an economic suicide pact…I would prey on the goodness and the decency of ordinary Americans…”

Of course, the claims in this video have zero basis in fact or reality whatsoever.  Still, it’s gotten nearly 1.5 million views on YouTube in a week, and has been favorably written about by numerous conservative blogs and other media outlets, so it’s clearly been successful.  In large part, this is because the video skillfully, albeit misleadingly, taps into and stirs up irrational fears about the ongoing, accelerating transition from 19th and 20th century fossil fuels to 21st century clean energy, and about what will actually be positive changes to America’s way of life in terms of economics, national security, and environmental/human health.

As we’ve written about numerous times, the rise of clean energy poses a serious threat to entrenched interests in the fossil fuel industry and their allies in Congress. In response, they’re fighting back “full contact,” including videos like this one.

Looking at the people behind this video, we find that they include folks like Howard S. Rich, who “has steered millions of dollars toward the libertarian cause,” who “serves as chairman of Americans for Limited Government, a national coalition that works with local groups to ‘protect property rights, stop out-of-control government spending, and hold judges accountable to the rule of law;’” who has worked with people “powerful billionaire Charles Koch, to promote their small-government, free-market causes;” and who “sits on the board of directors of the Cato Institute, an influential libertarian think tank founded and funded by Koch and based out of Washington, D.C.”

What these people are tapping into is primal fears of change, and attempting to use those fears to rev up opposition to clean energy. A recent article by J. Patrick Coolican in the Las Vegas Sun explained how people like Howard S. Rich have worked to turn renewable energy, which had previously been utterly non-controversial (and still maintains broad support among many conservatives), into “fodder for the culture war.” In fact, according to Coolican, “the conservative movement has made opposition to clean energy — opposition sometimes backed by fossil fuel dollars — a new mission… another front in the culture war, as much emotional as empirical…[l]ike gay marriage and National Public Radio and California and President Barack Obama.”

In pushing this new “culture war,” we’ve seen a relentless drumbeat of anti-clean-energy messaging from Fox News, the Washington Examiner, and many other right-wing media outlets. This messaging includes  including wildly overblown coverage of the Solyndra non-“scandal.” For instance, as an analysis by Media Matters found:

Fox News stands out for its incessant coverage of the Solyndra saga, which amounts to more than 8 hours of airtime — almost three times that of CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC and CBS combined. Fox has devoted 140 times more airtime to Solyndra than it spent on the MMS scandal, and around 29 times more than it spent on the wartime contracting commission’s report.

With that kind of drumbeat, it’s no wonder why there are indications of declining support for renewables among conservatives. It makes even less sense when you look at the continued accumulation of evidence that it’s clean energy, not dirty energy, that represents the jobs potential and economic engine of a thriving, 21st century American economy.

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New Polling Confirms Broad, Bipartisan Support for Clean Energy and for Dirty Energy to Pay Their Tab

Posted By Lowell F. on April 27th, 2012

Recently polling released by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication reinforces what we’ve been saying for a long time now: there is broad support for clean energy, as well as for making dirty energy actually pay their tab, instead of having us pick up the check for their polluted air and water, oil spills, and other damages to public health, national security, and the environment.

A few of the main findings from the new polling illustrate what we’ve been saying:

  • 92% of Americans think developing clean energy should be a priority
  • 79% support funding more research into renewable energy sources
  • 76% support tax rebates for purchase of solar panels
  • 76% support for regulating CO2 as a pollutant
  • 61% support making fossil fuel industry responsible for “all the hidden costs of their products”
  • 61% support for a “revenue-neutral carbon tax.”

Not only is support among the American public for clean energy broad, it ranges across the political spectrum. For instance, the new polling finds that “[a]mong registered voters, 96 percent of Democrats and Independents, and 84 percent of Republicans think clean energy should be a priority.”  In addition, a majority (54%) of Republicans support “holding the fossil fuel industry (coal, oil and natural gas) responsible for ‘all the hidden costs we pay for citizens who get sick from polluted air and water, military costs to maintain our access to foreign oil, and the environmental costs of spills and accidents.’”

These poll results are highly encouraging, but they also seem to contradict a recent Las Vegas Sun piece, which argued that renewable energy has become “fodder for the culture war,” with hostility by conservative politicians, think tanks, and media outlets like Fox News — hostility that is “as much emotional as empirical,” just like “gay marriage and National Public Radio.” We were curious what the Yale/GMU pollsters thought about this apparent contradiction, so we contacted the authors.  One of them – Professor Edward Maibach of GMU’s Center for Climate Change Communication – responded as follows:

Clean energy does indeed appear to be on the horizon of the culture wars, but the question is: why?  It certainly isn’t the will of the people, because large majorities of the American people are strongly in favor of renewable energy.

This response only reinforces our bottom line conclusion on this entire subject: It’s time for politicians to listen to the American people, and not to the fossil fuel interests and their paid minions. As for the American people, their preferences couldn’t be any more clear: wean us off our fossil fuel addiction, make the polluters pay to clean up their own messes, and transition us into a clean energy economy ASAP!  That’s about as clear and overwhelming a message as politicians are ever likely to hear. The only question is, when will they act on it?

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Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (4/27/12)

Posted By Lowell F. on April 27th, 2012

Here are five recommended reads for today (4/27/12)

  1. According to Climate Progress: “After pouring more than $8.4 million into bogus energy attack ads since November, the oil industry front group Americans For Prosperity announced yet another major ad buy of $6.1 million in eight states. The latest ad is based on a set of mistruths about green jobs that have been widely debunked.”
  2. DeSmogBlog reports, “A new poll released [yesterday] shows that American voters take global warming pollution very seriously and want to see action from government and the private sector to curb emissions and support clean energy solutions.”
  3. According to the New York Times, “The Obama administration is expected to announce a broad plan on Thursday to foster development of the nation’s ‘bioeconomy,’ including the use of renewable resources and biological manufacturing methods.”
  4. Greentechsolar asks, “Is thin film solar dead?” The answer: “thin film is at a crossroads…The next few years are going to be trying times for thin film which may never dominate as once expected – but GTM Research expects share to ‘creep up and claim about 18 percent of PV production by 2016.’”
  5. 5. Energy Boom reports, “In its annual progress report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) unsurprisingly called for more urgency and action from nations across the globe in the development and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.”  According to the IEA, “Whether the priority is to ensure energy security, rebuild national and regional economies, or address climate change and local pollution, the accelerated transition towards a lower-carbon energy system offers opportunities in all of these areas.”
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