Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Renewables’ tag

Colorado’s Green Energy Future

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Having done a bit of work with both of these groups, Fort Zed and Boulder’s Energy Future, I have seen the positive strides that each has already made, and have also seen a bit about the setbacks that have occasionally befallen them.

These set backs can be frustrating, and Mr. Greenlee is right to point out that we need to be skeptical of claims from activists, any activists, but especially those proffering programs that seem to be too good to be true.

In discussions on teaching “Intelligent Design” in the science classroom, a good friend and very intelligent educator made some comments about the differences between science and religion that I adapt here to distinguish between science and activism: In science we start with a question and examine objectively all available evidence to develop our conclusions; activism starts with conclusions and works the other direction.

Activists can often be committed to their projects without having first evaluated the evidence. That idealism and faith can play a big part in pushing past obstacles to reach solutions. But these need to be balanced with practical evaluation of what is possible, beneficial, and as this article points out, profitable, rather than pursued blindly.

All this said, let’s not discount Colorado’s energy efforts just because some aspects have at times been led off track.

Both towns, and especially Boulder, have greater financial resources and political will to pursue these renewable energy goals. As is the case with highly successful companies such as Google, let’s support them as they pave the way for more corporations and municipalities to produce and use more affordable clean, domestic, renewable energy.

Boulder Daily Camera

Posted: 01/16/2011 01:00:00 AM MST

Greenlee: New energy future?

By Bob Greenlee
Posted: 01/16/2011 01:00:00 AM MST

There`s a disconnect between Boulder`s concept of energy and environmental idealism that continues to frustrate activists. As the community attempts to resolve achieving its carbonless and sustainable energy goals reality has a nasty habit of revealing a number of inconvenient truths.

A collection of well-meaning citizens make up a group called Boulder`s Energy Future. They`re involved in trying to sort out what comes next as concerns the expired franchise agreement with Xcel Energy and whether or not attempting to “municipalize” the existing electric utility grid makes any sense. Boulder oftentimes suffers from having far too many armchair experts when it comes to making decisions on complex issues whether it involves expanding access to open space lands or carving out our “new energy future.”

Read the entire article here.

Rural Economic Development and Environmental Health: Growing Hand in Hand

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Ahh…, the sweet sounds of economic development and environmental health, each growing hand in hand, as it should be.

Technology and other forms of innovation are making the conjunction of these essential benefits easier and easier to achieve.

This development is not shutting out the most common energy resources, “While renewable energy industries are generating lots of buzz, the traditional sectors of oil and gas are especially booming in Weld,” but is still working on the kinds of renewable energy that will be, hopefully, much more common in coming decades.

As the article below points out, not only is renewable energy creating jobs, it is creating high-paying jobs that will increase prosperity today and encourage greater education for tomorrow, all while improving the US balance of trade and making it easier for us to meet our current energy demands without compromising, but improving the prospects for future generations of Americans to do the same.

Thank you, Weld County, Colorado, for providing the example.

Greeley Tribune

Weld’s economy gets energized

Expanding renewable energy industries join the entrenched oil and gas, which is experiencing a boom of its own

By Chris Casey

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wind turbines from the Cedar Creek Wind Farm near Grover in north Weld County and an oil/gas pump are some of the vast energy sources that are produced locally. Weld County has become one of Colorado’s leaders in energy production.

From the growing exurbs of Frederick and Dacono to the wind-swept prairie along the Wyoming border, Weld County has established itself as an energy hotbed.
The oil and gas industry has been a big player here for decades, accounting for 40 percent or more of Weld’s assessed valuation for at least 17 years, said Barbara Kirkmeyer, a Weld County commissioner. The industry accounts for about 4,000 jobs in Weld and supplies the county just shy of $50 million in property tax revenue annually.
But just as wells go through layer after layer of earth to reach the sweet spot, other energy industries are now stacking up in northeast Colorado: the renewable sectors of solar, wind and biomass.

Wind turbines from the Cedar Creek Wind Farm near Grover in north Weld County and an oil/gas pump are some of the vast energy sources that are produced locally. Weld County has become one of Colorado’s leaders in energy production.

Read the entire article here.

Gov. Ritter Continues with Energy Efforts, Serving Colorado

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It’s great to see Gov. Ritter continuing to work at the service of the people of Colorado, and future generations in general, by working with students at CSU on the kinds of energy issues that have made him such a great governor for the last four years.

Of course it also makes the libertarian in me happy that this is being funded by private dollars:

“It was very important to me and to the president that it was privately funded because of the difficulties we’ve had in securing public dollars for higher-ed during this awful recession,” Ritter said.

As long as Ritter and this program continue to strive for substantive and practical solutions to the energy needs of tomorrow, how could we lose?

Ritter to take new energy job at Colorado State

By IVAN MORENO – Jan 6, 2011 6:11 AM MT

DENVER (AP) — Outgoing Gov. Bill Ritter held up his old college ID card and smiled, announcing Wednesday that his next career move will be a return to his alma mater as the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University.

“So I don’t even have to have a new ID card, I can use the one, I think this is from somewhere around ’75 or ’76,” Ritter said as he displayed his identification card to reporters. Ritter, who leaves office Tuesday, will earn $300,000 a year at his new post, a “healthier salary than the governor’s salary,” he said.

The job is being paid for with donations funding the new center. Ritter makes $90,000 a year as governor. The governor graduated in 1978 from CSU with an undergraduate degree in political science.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

January 7th, 2011 at 6:20 pm

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.

Steven Chu Walks the Walk, or Rides

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It’s excellent that the head of our Department of Energy is so knowledgeable about the technologies with which he’s working. One might think this is par for the course, but as the article discusses it has not often been the case.

Riding his bike to work is a great touch that lends even more credence to his leadership.

None of this changes the fact, however, that one person should not be making decisions about which technologies or firms receive government investment. While Dr. Chu’s integrity may be unassailable, in order to ensure our energy future is as efficient as possible there need to be greater checks and balances on doling out these funds.

Overcoming old habits in terms of building materials and power systems is indeed a challenge. Chu would be wise to let the free market be his guide as makes his decisions and encourages the movement to a cleaner, renewable, domestically-powered energy future.

For energy chief, race is on to find fuel alternatives

Concerns about climate change and the economy have intensified Energy Secretary Steven Chu's focus on new technologies and greater energy efficiency.

Concerns about climate change and the economy have intensified Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s focus on new technologies and greater energy efficiency. (Alex Wong)

By Steven Mufson

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It’s a stunning fall morning in Washington, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, clad in bike shorts and a snug Stanford University biking shirt, climbs onto his Colnago bicycle and rolls down his leafy street and onto the Capital Crescent Trail. Then it’s a 20-minute sprint – breaking the trail’s speed limit – to downtown Washington. A Secret Service agent keeps close behind, with the help of a small electric motor. The trees are ablaze across the Potomac as he drops into Georgetown.

[…]

Aides say Chu’s ability to understand and absorb technical information sets him apart from the previous 11 energy secretaries – a financier, three business executives, an admiral, two governors, a U.S. senator and other politicians.

[…]

Chu’s talk spans environmental history, deep-water drilling and energy efficiency. Explaining why electric car batteries are large and heavy, he uses a common measurement of energy and notes that a lithium ion battery stores 0.54 megajoules per kilogram. Body fat has 38 megajoules per kilogram, and kerosene has 43.

[…]

Chu’s scientific bent was unexpectedly useful over the summer, when the Obama administration was desperate to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Chu was dispatched to BP’s Houston offices to see what could be done.

He recommended that BP use gamma rays to see into the blowout preventer; its several inches of steel were obscuring other methods of figuring out whether the shear rams were clamping into the drill pipe.

He also tapped into his Stanford network to get names of engineers who could give advice, and he told Obama early on that the flow rate of oil pouring into the gulf might be greater than what BP was letting on. Weeks later, he marveled about how little innovation there was in the deep-water drilling business and how few gauges and backup mechanisms were installed on the blowout preventer.

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

Biofuels Beyond Ethanol

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Here are a couple of interesting articles about the next generations of biofuels.

The first two sentences of the first article below are priceless, and quite correct. As expected, the article in The Economist is excellent. It’s not exactly cutting edge, as these technologies have been discussed for well over a year, and it doesn’t look like we’re a whole lot closer now.

As I said in that post above over a year ago, when these fuels do become cost effective and energetically efficient, we will need to be very careful about converting more land to monocultures to produce biomass as feedstocks for these fuels.

The Worldwatch article below addresses this issue obliquely with its hopeful look at algae as a feedstock. We face some of the same problems with algae as we do with cellulosic bofuels–trying to expose the diverse, 5 and 6 carbon sugars for fermentation–as well as the added difficulty in our lack of experience either growing or harvesting algae.

It’ll be a while before any of these are ready for your gs tank, but it’s encouraging that we’re thinking this far ahead.

It’s a fascinating time to be alive.

The future of biofuels

The post-alcohol world

Biofuels are back. This time they might even work

Oct 28th 2010 | London and san francisco

MAKE something people want to buy at a price they can afford. Hardly a revolutionary business strategy, but one that the American biofuels industry has, to date, eschewed. Now a new wave of companies think that they have the technology to change the game and make unsubsidised profits. If they can do so reliably, and on a large scale, biofuels may have a lot more success in freeing the world from fossil fuels than they have had until now.

[…]

That is a start, but it will not be enough, Wood is a possibility, particularly if it is dealt with chemically, rather than biologically (much of the carbon in wood is in the form of lignin, a molecule that is even tougher than cellulose). But energy-rich grasses look like the best bet. Ceres, which is based in Thousand Oaks, California, has taken several species of fast-growing grass, notably switchgrass and sorghum, and supercharged them to grow even faster and put on more weight by using a mixture of selective breeding and genetic engineering. Part of America’s prairies, the firm hopes, will revert to grassland and provide the cellulose that biofuels will need. The Energy Biosciences Institute that BP is funding at the University of Illinois, in Urbana-Champaign, is working on hybrid miscanthus, an ornamental grass that can produce truly remarkable yields.

Read the entire article here.

Third Time’s the Charm, or Three Strikes and You’re Out? Third-Generation Biofuels Are Here

Sam Shrank Revolt 2010-11-01

This entry is the latest in a series on innovations in the climate and energy world.

Ethanol from corn and sugar cane? Beyond passé at this point, with major environmental, land use, and food security concerns.

Second-generation biofuels, made from non-food crops and wastes? So 2008.

The next big thing in biofuels? Algae.

So-called third-generation biofuels have begun to receive serious attention. Biofuels can technically be made from just about any plant material, and some of the advantages of algae are obvious: it wouldn’t compete for arable land, for example, as it is grown in water, and it grows like, well, a weed, allowing for incredible yields.

The two avenues of third-generation development being considered so far are microalgae (pond scum, etc) and macroalgae (seaweed). Research is going into both harvesting algae from its natural environment and creating artificial growing environments.

Various algae have been discussed academically as a potential fuel since 1955. The U.S. Department of Energy has looked into fuels from microalgae since 1978, although the Aquatic Species Program, as it was called, was discontinued in 1996. Since then, various government bodies, including the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, and Department of Agriculture, have continued to look into algal biofuels.

Read this entire article here.

Republican Support for Market-Based Clean Energy Investments

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This is a great example of how government can cause minimal distortions while relying on market-based mechanisms to transition to a cleaner energy future.
Rep. Nunes’ bill would take oil companies’ revenues and award them to domestic firms producing the most cost-effective clean energy.

Unlike the current system with corn ethanol, in which inefficient and unclean technology has won out because of government lobbying, Nunes’ proposal basically lets the market decide which technologies should benefit from pubic investments.

Does New Republican Bill Signal Bipartisan Support for Clean Energy Investment?

Aug. 20 2010 – 2:35 pm 
Posted by Jesse Jenkins
A windfarm is seen 30 December 2006 near Palm ...

New legislation introduced by Republican Representative Devin Nunes (CA) and backed by several GOP House members would invest billions into renewable energy deployment, signaling an opportunity for bipartisan support for clean energy technology policies.

Over at CNBC, reporter Trevor Curwin has been one of the first to note the significance of the Republican bill, which Nunes’ says could “potentially provide hundreds of billions in financing” for renewable energy over the next several decades.

Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-Calif.) who introduced the bill, in late July, wants to use a reverse auction process to allocate future federal oil royalties to the best renewable energy projects and technologies, with the lowest-price-per-megawatt, (MW), bid winning funding.

“It’s clear and transparent; the people with the best technology will get the help,” Nunes says of the bill, dubbed “A Roadmap for America’s Energy Future,”

Depending on how much territory is eventually opened up to drilling, research firms estimate the royalties could be worth $10 billion to $50 billion a year.

As Curwin notes, Nunes’ plan would rely solely on new revenues from oil and gas leasing to fund the renewable energy investments, including the always contentious proposals to open up areas of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as well as the development of oil shale resources and expanded offshore drilling. While more offshore drilling enjoyed bipartisan support just months ago, in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf, the prospects for new offshore oil and gas production are uncertain.

Other alternatives include a very modest fee on carbon pollution ($5 per ton would raise roughly $30 billion annually and increase gas prices by less than a nickel per gallon) a wires fee on electricity sales ($10 billion could be raised annually without costing the average household more than $5 per month on their utility bills), the sunsetting of well-worn subsidies for mature energy sources (including oil, coal, corn ethanol and probably even wind power), or some combination of the above.

[…]

A $5 per barrel fee on all oil consumed in the United States, for example, would raise roughly $40 billion annually for critical national investments in clean energy technologies and industries, and would increase gasoline prices by just 12-15 cents per gallon. That’s in the regular ‘noise’ of gas price fluctuations, which have risen or fallen by 15 cents or more on 14 different occasions in the last two years, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Read the entire article here.

The Profitability and Economic Advantage of Renewable Energy

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“[Then Gov.] Bush and his fellow Texans didn’t create the [renewable energy] industry because they were worried about global warming. They did it because there was money to be made.
There still is. And if Congress doesn’t hurry, most of it is going to be made in China.”

With the August recess just a few days away, and politicians focused on the most important mid-term elections in at least a decade, I have little faith that anything substantive will happen with energy legislation before the new year. And with Republican prospects as strong as they are and a lack of Republican support for rewriting the way our government influences our energy usage, the chances don’t look much better in 2011.

I suggest not a quantitative change in government intervention, unless it’s a decrease, but a qualitative shift. In other words, this is not a call for increased government intervention or market distortions, but a change in the way the government intervenes. Today’s regulations hamper the ability of people in the free market to find the most efficient solutions to our energy challenges. Not good.

The best bet would be for the government to set the standards, as with Renewable Electricity Standards (RES), bring pricing in line with the externalities associated with different forms of fuel, so that issues such as healthcare costs incurred as people get sick from breathing air that’s been polluted by coal, and then let firms work within this transparent framework to deliver reliable power at the best possible price. These RES would offer much better prospect for people in later generations to enjoy more of the options we have presently, without forcing us to make unrealistic sacrifices now.

Without these measures, we face a number of serious problems, including an economy plagued by dependence on foreign energy, air that continues to be dirtied by coal and petroleum, and more jobs going to places like China as those visionaries who know that renewable fuels are going to bring big returns on investment flock to the countries that encourage, and benefit from, this necessary and lucrative innovation.

Senate Inaction Cedes U.S. Energy Race to China

By Eric Pooley – Jul 29, 2010 7:00 PM MT

Right now the U.S. Senate is conducting a master class on the perils of legislation by rearview mirror. On July 27, when Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled the “Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act,” the two most powerful clean energy provisions were missing: a cap on carbon emissions from the electric power sector and a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), which would require utilities to generate at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021.
For years, business leaders from General Electric Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt to venture capitalist John Doerr have warned that if America failed to pass a comprehensive climate-and-energy bill, the country risked losing the clean energy race to China — sacrificing the jobs of the future in a timid, ill-fated effort to preserve the jobs of the past. Now those warnings are coming true.
[…]

In a meeting with business leaders and environmental advocates early last year, Obama economic adviser Larry Summers described a “scissors” approach to economic recovery, according to several people who were present but not authorized to discuss it publicly.
The first blade of the scissors, Summers explained, was the stimulus package and its tens of billions for clean energy deployment. The second blade would be a mandatory, declining cap on carbon, which would remove the investment uncertainty that has hobbled the energy market, and draw billions of private dollars off the sidelines.
[…]
Instead of funding U.S. projects, banks and venture capitalists increasingly are putting their energy money into China, where the market is large and secure, thanks to government mandates. In the second quarter, for example, China attracted more clean-tech asset financing than Europe and the U.S. combined, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
[…]
On the same day that Reid pulled the plug on the carbon cap, China Daily announced that the People’s Republic would begin an experiment in carbon trading — a policy mechanism invented in America, used by Republican George H.W. Bush to fight acid rain, and vilified by today’s GOP as “cap and tax.”
[…]
Colorado voters approved one in 2004, and the state has increased the standard twice: The current target is 30 percent by 2020, double the one left out of the Senate bill. Colorado now generates almost 6 percent of its electricity from wind, and its commitment to clean energy has helped develop a solar industry as well: from 100 companies in 2007 to more than 400 today, according to the governor’s office. When Vestas Wind Systems, the Danish turbine maker, chose to build its North American manufacturing plants in Colorado (a $1 billion investment that was good for 2,500 new jobs), it called the RES a major factor in the decision.
[…]
Another early adopter is Texas. Its RES, signed into law by Governor George W. Bush in 1999, has helped the state become a major producer of U.S. wind power, adding almost 10 gigawatts (up from 0.2 in 1999) and thousands of new jobs in the decade since the law was enacted. Although Texas has reduced its carbon emissions as a result of this push into wind energy, Bush and his fellow Texans didn’t create the industry because they were worried about global warming. They did it because there was money to be made.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

July 30th, 2010 at 6:56 pm

More for funding for Efficiency rather than Renewables?

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This is an interesting article from last year that came to me through a LinkedIn discussion.

I agree that the most cost effective way for us to reduce the negative impacts of our energy consumption and work towards energy independence is through efficiency and reducing our overall energy consumption.

There is certainly a role for renewable and alternative technologies, though it does not seem to me that many of these technologies are currently market ready on a large scale.

Let me know what you think.

Before Adding, Try Reducing

The U.S. government offers a lot of subsidies to expand renewable energy. Should it be doing more to subsidize conservation?

By SARI KRIEGER

(See Corrections & Amplifications item below.)

The U.S. government is committing billions of dollars to support renewable energy such as wind- and solar-power plants. Some say it should use more of that financial clout to encourage less energy consumption in the first place.

Advocates of conservation, including businesses that help homeowners and companies save energy, think there should be more subsidies and tax incentives for basics like insulation and window shading, and for newer, more costly products like light-emitting-diode lamps and building-automation systems. LEDs cost more but use less energy than incandescent bulbs. The new automation systems help buildings waste less energy on cooling, heating and lighting.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

May 25th, 2010 at 1:38 pm