Archive for December, 2012

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (12/31/12)

Posted By Lowell F. on December 31st, 2012

Here are five recommended reads for today (12/31/12).

  1. Bill McKibben has a letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal, arguing that “Robert Bryce’s Dec. 17 op-ed (“Harvard Needs Remedial Energy Math“) attacking campus efforts to have universities divest themselves of holdings in fossil-fuel companies is interesting for what it omits: even the slightest attempt to rebut the mathematical logic that shows fossil-fuel companies have become outlaws against the laws of physics.”
  2. CleanTechnica has its Top 10 Solar Power Stories Of 2012 and its Top 10 Wind Power Stories Of 2012.
  3. The L.A. Times reports, “Recent studies project that California could derive a substantial percentage of its energy needs from rooftop solar installations, whether on suburban homes or city roofs or atop big-box stores.”
  4. GreenBiz asked “executives from a range of companies and organizations to reflect on the past year and look at what lies ahead” regarding the “biggest issues of 2012 and what they think will drive sustainability in 2013.”
  5. Stephen Lacey of ClimateProgress lists “some of the most important energy stories of the year.”
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We Respond to Chevron CEO John Watson’s Hypocrisy and Distortions

Posted By Lowell F. on December 28th, 2012

Recently, Chevron’s CEO John Watson was interviewed by Jonathan Fahey of the AP. Chevron, you might recall, is the company whose ubiquitous “Human Energy” campaign was slammed by Advertising Age as “one big lie.” In the same article, Advertising Age noted that Chevron was “fined more than $8 billion for causing an environmental disaster called by some ‘the Amazon’s Chernobyl.’” As if that’s not bad enough, this is also the company which has taken the propaganda form we call “cleantech washing” to a new level. Here’s what we wrote about Chevron back in December 2010:

Chevron does have an atrophied renewable energy arm, but it spends far more doing all the things that you’ve come to expect from heavily subsidized, dirty energy companies. It helps fund climate deniers. It is a dues-paying member of the aggressively anti-clean energy American Petroleum Institute. And it is a pro-fossil-fuel-subsidies force, with hundreds of millions of dollars at its disposal to lobby and propagandize accordingly. While it’s not busy doing all that, Chevron is working hard to keep us addicted to oil, to ensure that billions of dollars in corporate welfare keep flowing toward the highly profitable oil companies, and even to help kill the electric car (at a time when American could have laid a bold claim to the lead in the product for that emerging market).

You might want to keep those facts in mind as you read the AP interview of Chevron’s CEO, John Watson. For now, though, we want to respond to just a couple of points Watson made, ones that we found particularly glaring in their hypocrisy and distortions.

1.  According to Watson: “The greatest advancements in living standards in recorded history have taken place in the modern hydrocarbon era. I don’t think that’s coincidental. Our leaders have to make a decision. Do they want that to continue or do they have a better solution for us? So it’s not my call.”

Except, actually, there most certainly is a choice: either a dirty energy future that results in catastrophic changes to society, or a clean energy future that avoids the worst of it. And yes, there are far better solutions – clean energy, for one – but Big Oil companies use a portion of their annual mega-profits to fund efforts aimed at blocking those solutions. Meanwhile, notwithstanding Watson’s denial of any responsibility, in fact it very much is his call whether to work for, or stand in the way of, finding better energy solutions, and he’s busy making that call every day. For starters, instead of working incessantly to stymie clean energy, why doesn’t Watson wean his company off taxpayer-funded corporate welfare, freeing up the money so we can fund clean, sustainable energy sectors? We’d remind Mr. Watson that his own industry has received government assistance, of all kinds, for 100 years or so. Instead, how about Watson let clean energy compete on a level playing field with Chevron and its late 19th/early 20th century energy sources? Is he afraid to do that? It sure seems so from the way he’s talking in this interview, and from the way his company’s been behaving.

2. Watson says, “I would support (government funding) of pre-commercial activity to try to advance some of these breakthrough technologies, rather than putting big subsidies on technologies that we know are more expensive and won’t necessarily solve the issue.”

As we know, Big Oil is far past the “pre-commercial” stage, even as it continues to receive heavy support – implicit and explicit subsidies of all kinds – to keep it artificially cheap. Yet, Watson’s comments appear to argue that because fossil fuels are, and need to remain, artificially inexpensive, they deserve to keep their welfare checks. Get the circular logic? Chevron receives corporate welfare, so oil’s less expensive. That’s why Chevron should keep getting its welfare check. Because it’s inexpensive. Of course, Watson hopes we all don’t notice the fact that Chevron, and the other Big Oil companies, make enormous profits and don’t need welfare checks at all. Clever, clever.

The bottom line is that Chevron and other Big Oil titans should have been taken off taxpayer-funded training wheels many decades ago. Instead, they’ve used their tremendous financial resources to further entrench their places at the feeding trough. All the more reason for us to support Bill McKibben’s divestment movement, to keep pushing to get Big Oil off the dole, and of course to fight back against Big Oil efforts at delaying the inevitable day when they are replaced by clean energy.

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Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (12/28/12)

Posted By Lowell F. on December 28th, 2012

Here are five recommended reads for today (12/28/12).

  1. The Guardian lists “the top green energy stories of the year.”
  2. According to BuzzFeed Politics, “President Obama’s chief environmental official departed in part over her opposition to a controversial plan to pipe oil from Canadian tar sands to Texas refineries…”
  3. The New York Times reports, “All over the country, developers are in a sprint to get new wind farms up and running before Tuesday, when the federal wind production tax credit will disappear like Cinderella’s ball gown.”
  4. PV Magazine looks at “The 2012 solar year in review and what lies ahead in 2013.”
  5. Clean Edge is out with its “11th annual edition in Clean Edge’s Clean Energy Trends report series.” It finds, among other things, that, “At nearly a quarter of total VC activity in the U.S., the clean-tech sector has expanded more rapidly than any other venture category, up from just 1.2 percent of total venture activity a decade earlier.”
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“Promised Land” With Matt Damon Explores the “high-stakes poker” of Natural Gas Fracking

Posted By Lowell F. on December 28th, 2012

We’ve written extensively here at Scaling Green on the practice known as natural gas fracturing (aka, “fracking”).  For the most part, our focus has been on the the potential risks to water supplies from this industry, as well as on the need for strong government regulation and oversight as this practice expands.

Now, a movie starring Matt Damon, called Promised Land, is opening in theaters, promising to bring increased attention to fracking and its impact on communities. Here’s a brief description from the film’s website:

[Promised Land] keenly distills questions of how American values have evolved. These explorations come in part through a small town’s decisions when a natural gas company seeks to extract gas from shale rock formations through the process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Damon explains, “The plot follows Steve and Sue as they try to persuade the McKinley community to lease the drilling rights of their farmland to Global Crosspower Solutions, which Steve and Sue work for, and which – valued at $9 billion – is one of the largest energy corporations in the country.

“The townspeople have divergent opinions about whether this is a good thing or not. In a lot of cases, these leases are the only thing keeping a family farm from foreclosure.”

DeWitt adds, “The people of McKinley are concerned about feeding their kids and improving their school systems.”

This is a complex issue that’s dividing a lot of communities right now,” says Damon. “What better setting for us as storytellers to ask questions about who we are as Americans?

It sounds fascinating, and we are certainly looking forward to seeing the movie. In the meantime, we’ve viewed the movie’s trailer (see above), and also watched Charlie Rose’s interview with Matt Damon and screenwriter/actor John Krasinski. As Damon tells Rose, the subject was perfect to make a movie about, as “the stakes are so incredibly high.” Krasinski adds that “it’s high-stakes poker” for communities trying to decide how to proceed when the fracking company comes to town and make them an offer that can appear highly attractive, particularly to people struggling in tough economic times.

One final note, from a public relations perspective, is how the fossil fuel industry has reacted to this upcoming film. According to this Wall Street Journal article, they are “preparing for battle…[w]orried that the movie will portray fracking in a negative light.” Among other things, the oil and gas folks for months have been “working up responses that it says could include bombarding film reviewers with scientific studies, distributing leaflets to moviegoers and mounting a ‘truth-squad’ effort on Twitter and Facebook.” It will be interesting to see whether or not this “concerted campaign targeting the film before anyone’s seen it,” as the film’s distributor (Focus Features) said, works as intended. Stay tuned.

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

Posted By Lowell F. on December 27th, 2012

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

  1. According to CleanTechnica, the largest U.S. solar power company, Florida-based NextEra Resources, “is about to add a whopping 750 more megawatts in one fell swoop if the Environmental Impact Statement for its proposed McCoy solar energy project in California passes muster.”
  2. Bloomberg reports, “The U.K., which had the wettest summer in 100 years, added solar power to a list of technologies deemed crucial to meeting renewable-energy and carbon-reduction targets.”
  3. CleanTechnica has its top 10 electric vehicle (EV) stories from 2012.  The top story: “there have been many entries into the EV market this year, and many announced EVs that will soon be hitting the market.”
  4. Bryan Walsh of Time Magazine’s Ecocentric blog has a “cloudy forecast for renewable energy, with a silver lining,” for 2013.
  5. Pacific Business News reports that there were more PV installations in Oahu “this year than in past decade combined.”
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