Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Policy’ tag

Agricultural Policy Matters to Eaters and Energy Users as much as to Farmers

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Food and energy are increasingly intertwined. As energy is fundamental to food production, processing, and distribution, and because agricultural crops are used for biofuels feedstocks, the interconnections and impacts can become dizzyingly complex. Localizing both food and energy production can, in many instances, increase the efficiency, the quality, and the ecological cleanliness of these two essential production systems.

This is not to say I will give up the coffee that comes from Latin America, and it is often more efficient to eat tomatoes trucked from Mexico than to grow them in greenhouses further north, but there is much we can do to decrease energy inputs to the food system, and we can do it without making significant sacrifices.

By MICHAEL POLLAN
Published October 10, 2012

One of the more interesting things we will learn on Nov. 6 is whether or not there is a “food movement” in America worthy of the name — that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system. People like me throw the term around loosely, partly because we sense the gathering of such a force, and partly (to be honest) to help wish it into being by sheer dint of repetition. Clearly there is growing sentiment in favor of reforming American agriculture and interest in questions about where our food comes from and how it was produced. And certainly we can see an alternative food economy rising around us: local and organic agriculture is growing far faster than the food market as a whole. But a market and a sentiment are not quite the same thing as a political movement — something capable of frightening politicians and propelling its concerns onto the national agenda.

Continue reading this article here.

Written by Jason

October 11th, 2012 at 5:42 am

US Ends Tariff on Imported Ethanol

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With surprisingly little fanfare, the US has ended the $0.54 per gallon tariff on imported ethanol. This comes at the same time that Congress also allowed the $0.45 per gallon of ethanol tax credit for blenders to expire, potentially opening the door to much more US importation of Brazilian ethanol, as well as cooperation between the two countries on more advanced biofuels. Brazil was the leading producer of renewable fuel until 2005 when US production of ethanol from corn surpassed production of Brazil’s sugarcane ethanol.

The article below is clearly biased, quoting two top officials from UNICA, Brazil’s powerful sugarcane industry association, without presenting views from American officials who have been opposing these measures as they work to protect domestic energy production and agricultural markets.

That said, decreasing government intervention has always been favored by this humble author, and the elimination of these barriers to trade should make for the more efficient functioning of energy and agricultural markets.

Cooperation between the two largest producers of renewable fuels could also lead to faster development of fuels from non-food crop residues such as corn stover, sugarcane bagasse, and other cellulosic feedstocks.

Congressional Recess Means the End of Three Decades of US Tariffs on Imported Ethanol

Time for the world’s top two ethanol producers, the United States and Brazil, to lead a global effort for increased production and free, unobstructed trade for biofuels, says Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association.

SAO PAULO, Dec. 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — For the first time in more than three decades of generous US government subsidies for the domestic ethanol industry, coupled with a steep tariff on imports, the United States market will be open to imported ethanol as of January 1st, 2012, without protectionist measures. The adjournment of the 112th Congress means both the US$0,54 per gallon tax on imported ethanol and a corresponding tax credit of US$0,45 per gallon for blenders, the VEETC (Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit), will expire as expected on December 31st.

Continue reading this story here.

A Gradual Shift to Renewable Energy is the Best Path

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Lomborg is hitting the nail on the head in this article, as is Gürcan Gülen, the very intelligent researcher with a hilarious name.

Most renewable energy technologies are more expensive and less efficient than traditional fossil fuels. Attempting to roll out vast amounts of solar and wind power before they are competitive will increase costs to users, which will hurt our economy.

In the final paragraph he also makes a point that should have come much earlier: the best way to increase jobs and make these renewable technologies competitive is to invest in research and development.

Clean, domestic, renewable energy is the goal towards which we should strive, but jumping in with both feet before that technology is ready would be foolish. Those early adopters are helping to make these resources and technologies for affordable for all, so they should be applauded. But they are the people and the firms such as Google that can afford to make these investments even if they are not entirely economically efficient. Forcing everyday people across the country in to those forms of energy will cost taxpayer dollars and will increase utility bills. These are not good for America.

Patience and prudence are essential as we strive towards this important goal.

Green Smoke Screen

Supporters of “green energy” like to say it will create more jobs. They’re wrong.

By Bjørn LomborgPosted Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011, at 6:46 AM ET

Phil Tussing installing  Phil Tussing installs photovoltaic solar panels. Click image to epxand.Political rhetoric has shifted away from the need to respond to the “generational challenge” of climate change. Investment in alternative energy technologies like solar and wind is no longer peddled on environmental grounds. Instead, we are being told of the purported economic payoffs—above all, the promise of so-called “green jobs.” Unfortunately, that does not measure up to economic reality.

The Copenhagen Consensus Center asked Gürcan Gülen, a senior energy economist at the Bureau for Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin, to assess the state of the science in defining, measuring, and predicting the creation of green jobs. Gülen concluded that job creation “cannot be defended as another benefit” of well-meaning green policies. In fact, the number of jobs that these policies create is likely to be offset—or worse—by the number of jobs that they destroy.

Read the entire article here.

Sec Chu Slashes Budget, Increases Energy Tech Investments

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Obama’s efforts to appease Republican calls for decreased government spending are reaching in to the Department of Energy. That’s a good thing. Apparently Secretary Chu is striving towards all sorts of increased efficiency.

In addition to the $600M in cuts, however, he’s also seeking $8B in clean energy technology research. As I pointed out in an earlier post, as long as those investments are structured to provide returns to taxpayers and to the country in general, that’s positive. If those benefits are only extended to government or firms that do not pass them along to tax payers and energy users, then they are just another boondoggle.

Energy Department to seek $600 million in budget cuts

By Steven Mufson

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 11, 2011; 11:37 PM

The Obama administration will call for deep cuts in the headquarters staff of the Energy Department next week but will seek $8 billion in investments in the research, development and deployment of what it calls “clean energy technology programs.”

Energy Secretary Steven Chu posted a note to “colleagues” on the department’s blog site Friday listing about $600 million in cuts, saying that the department will take “responsible steps to cut wasteful spending and reduce expenses.”

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

February 12th, 2011 at 11:44 am

Colorado Senate Attempts to Strike Delicate Energy Balance

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Yikes. Once again I’m conflicted between an awareness that we need to move towards domestic, renewable energy, and an understanding that this move is expensive.

I am more than willing, and fortunate to be able, to pay 20% more in my power bill to support these efforts, but there are plenty of people who are not so inclined, and even if they were, cannot afford to do so.

One solution is energy efficiency. Homes and businesses that are properly insulated, have efficient appliances and machinery, and that use energy wisely can reduce their energy costs, thus enabling slightly higher bills per unit of energy used.

Hopefully our state legislature can succeed in striking this delicate balance.

The Associated Press February 10, 2011, 8:32AM ET

Colo. renewable energy rules survive GOP offensive

DENVER

Colorado Democrats slammed the door Wednesday on Republican plans to undo clean-energy policies adopted in recent years.

A Democrat-controlled Senate committee narrowly rejected three Republican proposals to lower consumer utility bills.

Democrats said they sympathized with residents paying steeper power bills but insisted the proposed changes would be short-sighted.

Read the entire article here.

Clean Colorado Energy Gives Us an Economic Edge

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It’s certainly a challenge to balance long term economic health with the need to pay the heating bill this month.We know fossil fuel resources are finite, even if they appear abundant in Colorado today. We also know that they pollute our air in ways much more immediate and tangible than climate change. But if working towards cleaner, renewable, domestically produced energy were going to increase our utility bills drastically in the near term, it’s a tough sell.

Colorado’s economy is doing pretty well compared to the rest of the country during this economic downturn and present (we hope) recovery. I am just one of thousands of examples of people who have good jobs working in Colorado’s clean energy sector.

I’m excited by the prospects for Colorado’s economy in the next several decades, due in large part to the competitive edge Colorado has gained in working towards a more renewable, energy-independent economy.

Gov. Ritter provides only vague overviews in the article below, but he’s done plenty to place a solid foundation.

We’ve successfully shown how to utilize of our domestic resources while simultaneously addressing environmental concerns.

By Anna Clark 

Mon Dec 6, 2010 1:00am EST

Anna Clark: During your four years in office, you have signed 57 pieces of energy-related legislation. Did making Colorado a model state for the “new energy economy” come at a price?

Bill Ritter: I would not say it’s come at a price. I’m not anti-business; quite the opposite. Cultivating a competitive edge in energy and sustainable development is what we should be doing. Creativity, innovation, and commercialization — these should be in 21st century America’s wheelhouse. That’s who we’ve always been as a country. This vision is among the things I am proudest of accomplishing during these past four years.

Read the entire article here.

Moving Clean Energy Beyond Climate Change

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Clearly these elections did not come down to such simplistic terms as those in the headline to the article below. Our energy future may be my #1 concern, and it’s definitely on the minds of many other voters, but there’s a lot more at stake here as well.

I’ve been pretty torn in this year’s elections. On one hand, I’m very much in favor of a more progressive approach to energy issues, believing that while fossil fuels will remain an important part of our energy matrix for decades and hopefully centuries to come, but I also understand that continuing business as usual will doom us to some frightening dead ends. On the other hand, government intervention, as it has been implemented for corn ethanol, is inefficient and creates market distortions that limit innovation.

If our state’s government can create market based incentives that encourage the most cost effective clean technologies, rather than simply supporting their own pet projects, then these investments will be much more able to pay themselves back in the mid and long term.

As for climate change denial versus clean energy, we need to transcend these contentious barriers and see that there are many more advantages to clean, renewable, domestic energy than simply avoiding climate change. If we continue to hammer away at that one point, we will continue fighting, rather than building on the already-abundant common ground that exists where we can see that these clean energy efforts are good for our economy, good for our environment, and good for America.

Gene Karpinski

Gene Karpinski

President, League of Conservation Voters

Clean Energy Defeats Climate Denial in Colorado

As I’ve said before, we lost many friends on Election Day — friends who stood up to the Big Oil companies and championed clean energy policies. And while corporate polluters and their lobbyists may claim this was a referendum on clean energy reform that was clearly not the case. Our election eve poll showed that voters who supported the Republican candidate in 83 battleground districts did not do so because of the Democrat’s vote for clean energy and climate legislation. In fact, in an open ended question, only 1 percent of voters who supported the Republican candidate cited cap and trade as their reason for opposing the Democratic candidate.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

November 13th, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Waste-to-Energy is a no-brainer, and so is some of its technology

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This example of waste-to-energy technology is quite simple. Recovering waste heat from engines and industrial operations to create electricity is just one of many examples of this kind of technology. Another example, performed for years by a local Colorado company, is recovering waste cooking oil from restaurants and converting it to biodiesel. Other technologies are more sophisticated and will require further innovation before they are ready for the market.

In an increasingly resource constrained world, these technologies are essential and beneficial on two fronts. First, they provide electricity and transportation fuels that are necessary for economic growth. Second, they divert waste that would otherwise take up space in land fills or require other resources for safe disposal, or they escape into the environment, threatening human and environmental health. There’s no downside here.

On a completely different note addressed in the article below, while the company GE has acquired, Calnetix, is based in Florida, it’s interesting to note that “Today, much of the activity in the small-scale, waste heat recovery sector is centered in Europe.” Many who argue against government spending say we are moving more towards a socialist model similar to Europe where, they further point out, innovation has lagged behind the U.S.

I am not in favor of expansion of the U.S. federal government, and total spending must certainly be reduced, but in the interest of objectivity it is important to note the many areas where Europe’s government spending has spurned highly beneficial technologies. Ideally these investments are limited in their timeframe and eventually produce returns for our tax dollars.

Oct. 1, 2010, 9:45 a.m. EDT

GE Expands Its Waste-to-Energy Capabilities, Acquiring Green Technology from Innovator Calnetix Power Solutions

Move Allows GE’s Jenbacher Gas Engine Business to enter $1 Billion Waste Heat Recovery Segment

JENBACH, Austria & STUART, Fla., Oct 01, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Further expanding its diverse portfolio of power generation technologies, GE /quotes/comstock/13*!ge (GE 16.36, +0.11, +0.68%) today announced the acquisition of substantially all of the assets of Calnetix Power Solutions (CPS), a Florida-based company that develops innovative technology for small-scale, waste heat to power projects. Recovering waste heat from industrial processes and using it to produce electricity is a rapidly growing trend in the global power industry offering high efficiency and a reduced carbon footprint.

CPS offers well-proven waste heat to power technology to generate electricity using the waste heat of various types of engines, biomass boilers and gas turbines. The acquired business will be integrated into GE’s Jenbacher gas engine business, based in Jenbach, Austria. Today, much of the activity in the small-scale, waste heat recovery sector is centered in Europe.

Read the entire article here.

Water among victims of gas drilling process

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Here is another article on what is to me an interesting and very important subject: hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Not only is it a human health concern, or even just a matter for energy, trying to balance the advantages of the free market with the need for some sort of safety regulation is an effort that spans so many aspects of life in a capitalist society.
Published: August 22, 2010

Fracking. It’s a word you probably hadn’t heard a year or two ago. Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had to postpone a public hearing on the subject in Syracuse, N.Y., because of concerns the venue might not be able to accommodate the 8,000 or more people expected to show up and speak about the subject.

Both New York and Pennsylvania residents are getting to know “fracking,” an issue that’s of increasing concern to people in these states and the others that sit on what’s known as the Marcellus Shale – a geological formation that stretches north from West Virginia. In total, this shale contains what may be the biggest natural-gas deposit in the world.

To extract the fossil fuel, companies first drill deep wells and then use a technique called hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” for short. It’s a process that injects, under high pressure, huge amounts of water laced with sand and more than a hundred chemicals into rock formations deep under the ground.

[…]

Chemicals and water – there’s your first clue to why people are alarmed. A report released by the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association this month showed that there have been 1,435 violations of the state oil and gas laws in the past 2.5 years – at least 952 of which affect the environment. That’s more than one a day, the Sierra Club notes.

Read the entire article here.

Regulating gas drilling & fracturing

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Internalize the externalities. That’s the job of government in this situation. If there are external or indirect costs from drilling for natural gas, particularly with technologies such as hydraulic fracturing that involve greater risk, the companies performing the drilling, and people like us who then buy the finished product by lighting our homes, pay those costs.

For example, if the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing leak into drinking water and make people sick, the economic costs such as hospital bills and lost work are paid by the company who was doing the drilling involved with the leak. Of course this doesn’t solve all the problems caused when people get sick from bad water, but it motivates the companies to prevent such accidents, as opposed to setting up government funds to fix them, which motivates neither prevention nor the guilty parties taking responsibility for their actions. Then, as these costs are passed along to we the consumers, we’re motivated to pay more attention to the companies that provide our electricity, further enforcing the cycle.

Yes, it may seem shallow or even vulgar to think about issues of human health only in monetary terms, but it presents a set of very efficient tools for solving so many of the problems that go much deeper than money.

PA senator says US should regulate gas drilling

August 20, 2010, 8:13AM ET

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM

SCRANTON, Pa.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Thursday that Pennsylvania’s emerging natural gas industry has the potential to create jobs and wealth, but also carries environmental risks that must be addressed.

The Pennsylvania Democrat told a forum in Scranton that the “gas rush” taking place in the vast Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania “can create a great economic boost” in a state where nearly 600,000 people are unemployed. But he added: “We must not fail to protect our people, our land, our water and our future.”

Read the entire article here.