Energy Policy

How to Reduce Global Warming for Fun and Profit

How to Reduce Global Warming for Fun and Profit:

We’re not actually so far off from turning emissions into commodities, it turns out. In the United States alone, a number of companies aim to convert waste carbon dioxide into chemicals that can be used to make products we buy every day

The only people who think regulating CO2 will end capitalism are Libertarians and Marxists. Anyone who has an understanding of economics that doesn’t begin and end in the 19th century understands that markets react to regulations in the exact same way they react to everything else. Incentives change, prices adjust, people come up with new ideas that make money.

Solar power is growing so fast that older energy companies are trying to stop it

Solar power is growing so fast that older energy companies are trying to stop it:

If the penetration of distributed solar reached as high as 10 percent — an admittedly aggressive scenario — a typical utility in the Southwest could see its earnings drop 5 percent to 13 percent, while a typical utility in the Northeast could see its earnings decline 6 percent to 41 percent. This is similar to what’s happened in Germany, where distributed solar has halved the market value of some utilities.

Right now, the biggest problem is the lack of a smart grid. If we can get a national smart grid we can create micro-markets where individuals can become micro power companies.

Twenty-Two Percent of the World's Power Now Comes from Renewable Sources

Twenty-Two Percent of the World's Power Now Comes from Renewable Sources:

Wind, solar, and other clean energy sources “continued to grow strongly, reaching almost 22 percent of the global mix,” according to the IEA, “compared with 21 percent in 2012 and 18 percent in 2007.”

The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. The carbon age is ending and the fossil fuel industry is going to fight it as hard as they can.

The Koch Attack on Solar Energy

The Koch Attack on Solar Energy:

For the last few months, the Kochs and other big polluters have been spending heavily to fight incentives for renewable energy, which have been adopted by most states. They particularly dislike state laws that allow homeowners with solar panels to sell power they don’t need back to electric utilities. So they’ve been pushing legislatures to impose a surtax on this increasingly popular practice, hoping to make installing solar panels on houses less attractive.

Not surprised.

Scientific American: Fracking Could Help Geothermal Become a Power Player

Scientific American: Fracking Could Help Geothermal Become a Power Player

the DoE concludes at least 500 gigawatts of electric capacity could be harvested from such EGS systems. Even better, hot rocks underlie every part of the country and the rest of the world. Australia’s first enhanced geothermal system, spicily named Habanero, began producing power in May, and Europe has brought three such power plants online.

That is a little under 1/3 of US production. It could mean that the US could be on 2/3 renewable sources in a generation if the political will to promote the policy existed.

War on coal: A pretty good idea.

War on coal: A pretty good idea.

the only way to consider new coal-fired plants a remotely plausible undertaking is to completely ignore the social costs of burning the coal. By the same token, simply throwing all my garbage into my neighbor’s back yard could look like a cheap and appealing alternative to proper trash disposal if I were allowed to completely ignore the costs to my neighbor.

Getting rid of direct subsidies and then attacking indirect subsides is all that is need to make wind and solar competitive.

World solar power generating capacity will grow by between 200 and 400 percent over the next five years

World solar power generating capacity will grow by between 200 and 400 percent over the next five years

The world’s solar power generating capacity will grow by between 200 and 400 percent over the next five years, with Asia and other emerging markets overtaking leadership from Europe, a European industry association said on Monday. … “The growth will depend on the support of politicians.

Growth depend on ending support of fossil fuel as well.

How German Solar Has Made All German Electricity Cheaper

How German Solar Has Made All German Electricity Cheaper

The Fraunhofer Institute found that - as a result of the Merit Order ranking system - solar power had reduced the price of electricity on the EPEX exchange by 10 percent on the average, with reductions peaking at up to 40 percent in the early afternoon when the most solar power is generated.

Its amazing how public policy can work when it isn’t subverted by zealots and shills chanting Drill Baby Drill.

Companies can now extract oil and natural gas from the high Arctic, shale, oil sands and deepwater wells. These fossil fuels are still finite and dwindling, but tapping the new sources pushes back the date of "peak oil." Does that give the United States necessary time to develop sustainable energy sources, or will it keep Americans needlessly addicted to dirty fuels by keeping them cheap - and eroding the "energy security" argument?

Companies can now extract oil and natural gas from the high Arctic, shale, oil sands and deepwater wells. These fossil fuels are still finite and dwindling, but tapping the new sources pushes back the date of “peak oil.” Does that give the United States necessary time to develop sustainable energy sources, or will it keep Americans needlessly addicted to dirty fuels by keeping them cheap — and eroding the "energy security" argument?
Will a Boom for Oil and Gas Delay Renewable Energy? - Room for Debate - NYTimes.com

it's worth pointing out that special treatment for fracking makes a mockery of free-market principles. Pro-fracking politicians claim to be against subsidies, yet letting an industry impose costs without paying compensation is in effect a huge subsidy. They say they oppose having the government "pick winners," yet they demand special treatment for this industry precisely because they claim it will be a winner.

it's worth pointing out that special treatment for fracking makes a mockery of free-market principles. Pro-fracking politicians claim to be against subsidies, yet letting an industry impose costs without paying compensation is in effect a huge subsidy. They say they oppose having the government "pick winners," yet they demand special treatment for this industry precisely because they claim it will be a winner.

Here Comes Solar Energy - NYTimes.com

I’ve been calling these subsidies for fossil fuels Carbon Socialism.

You might not think that America is a net exporter of solar products. But it is - to the tune of $1.8 billion. That's a $1 billion increase over net exports documented in the solar sector last year. ... a report released this morning from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association found that the U.S. has a $247 million trade surplus with China. (via Solar Stunner: America is a $1.9 Billion Exporter of Solar Products | ThinkProgress)

A better kind of lightbulb?

This week, the lighting startup company vu1 is beginning to ship a new type of lightbulb that could displace compact fluorescents and LED lamps as the energy-saving bulb of choice. The technology, known as cathodoluminescence or electron-stimulated luminescence (ESL), offers similar energy savings, but provides a more natural quality of light.

From Solar at Home: A better kind of lightbulb?

With luck this will phase out the old incandescents.

Obama's Bid to End Oil Subsidy Revives Debate

When he releases his new budget in two weeks, President Obama will propose doing away with roughly $4 billion a year in subsidies and tax breaks for oil companies, in his third effort to eliminate federal support for an industry that remains hugely profitable.

From Obama's Bid to End Oil Subsidy Revives Debate - NYTimes.com

So, who is going to come out in favor of giving oil companies taxpayer money? Anyone want to bet if this gets an anonymous hold?

Traditional Light Bulb Values!

One of the legislative priorities for Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who’s vying to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee is defending the “traditional, incandescent light bulb” against government regulators who want to replace it with “the little, squiggly, pig-tailed ones.”


From Traditional Light Bulb Values!

What about candles and whale oil lanterns? Is Joe Barton opposed to other, more traditional light sources?

US Trade Deficit is Half Oil

A government official emphasized to me today what should be clear to anyone who follows Calculated Risk's charts, namely that a huge element of our trade deficit has nothing to do with China or manufacturing but is instead driven by oil:

Now it's not unusual that the US is a net oil importer. Most countries are. But America is a much more oil-dependent country than other places are.

From US Trade Deficit is Half Oil

The ongoing bailouts of the Oil Industry are the cause of half of us debt.

hot air on wind power

Engineers have cut the price of electricity derived from wind by about 80 percent in the last 20 years, setting up this renewable technology for a major share of the electricity market. But for all its promise, wind also generates a big problem: because it is unpredictable and often fails to blow when electricity is most needed, wind is not reliable enough to assure supplies for an electric grid that must be prepared to deliver power to everybody who wants it - even when it is in greatest demand.
From NYT

The fact that the wind doesn’t always blow isn’t an energy generation problem. It’s an energy storage problem. Or an opportunity, if you chose to see it that way. Why not use the winter surplus wind to generate hydrogen from water. Rather than store all that explosive H2, the wind farm can convert it to methanol; which is similar enough to ethanol that it should be easy enough to get E85 vehicles to run on it. Why methanol? Because producing it will remove three atoms of CO2 from the atmosphere for every atom of H2. Methanol producing wind farms will be able to sell carbon credits along with that fuel. Also, burning that methanol in your car will result in no net carbon increase. Nothing I am saying is new. One wonders why the Times is missing this.

Fuel-Efficient Cars Help Toyota to Strong Profits

TOKYO, Aug. 4 - Toyota Motor Company said its income jumped 39.2 percent to $3.2 billion during the second quarter, boosted by strong sales of fuel-efficient vehicles in the United States, where it passed Ford Motor Company in July sales to rank as the second-biggest automaker behind General Motors.
From New York Times

While the knee-jerk reaction might be a snide remark about Detroit only being profitiable when gas is cheep and the demand for giant cars is high, but I see another set of problems here.

First, the fact that Honda and Toyota can make cars in the US better than GM or Ford shows that there is a problem with management and not with the workers. Second, part of this problem is that Honda and Toyota have a much lower legacy cost. A large part of the GM sticker price is the cost of paying pensions and health care benefits for retired workers. By making health care and pensions backed by companies rather than the state, brand new US subsidiaries of foreign companies have an advantage over US firms. Lastly, the lack of a national energy policy that would put pressure on Detroit has lead to complacency. You would think that they might have learned a thing or two from the 1970s and wouldn’t be caught by surprise by the same geo-political surprise again. And you would be wrong.

So what can be done about this? First, a new energy policy targeting an overall improvement in fuel economy. Second, a national health care and pension plan overhaul to eliminate; or at least mitigate, the disadvantages of legacy costs. Lastly, there needs to be a policy of promoting long term planning so managers will be less likely to sabotage a firms future for a few good quarters.

An Inconvenient Truth

I saw An Inconvenient Truth over the last weekend. I liked it. Mr. Gore does a great job at providing a layman’s review on Global Warming. With that said, he does a bunch of things that drove me absolutely nuts.

First off, why were so many of those charts not to scale? I realize that’s something that only people like me care about, but if you don’t want to be dismissed as an alarmist, you need to remove anything that might be viewed as biased. Second, he doesn’t come close to adequately explaining the time table for the damage. One could get the impression that a 20 foot wall of water will hit the Florida coast any day now. That is hardly likely. Lastly, while the background and biographical segments were a really nice break from the lecture-format; please stop pretending that those segments aren’t meant to be a campaign video.

Head over to metacritic here more reviews. And yes, the right wing is already on attack. Those are worth watching too.

For what its worth, at this point we have to start looking at people who dismiss Global Warming the same what we might look at someone who dismisses evolution as just a theory. Or perhaps we should view them like we view people who voice the various Ocean’s 9/11 style conspiracy theories that can be readily debunked. To suggest that hundreds of climate scientists, from all over the world; are all falsifying evidence and passing on bogus theories to some unknown end is just plain nutty. Can anyone name a single thing they have to gain from this alleged conspiracy? These people would have use believe that only people we can trust just happen to work for Exxon Mobil. Pure coincidence I’m sure.

The next question that comes to mind, is Gore tan, rested and ready?

It's Only $300 Billion

For the United States, the cost of the Iraq war will soon exceed the anticipated cost of the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement designed to control greenhouse gases. For both, the cost is somewhere in excess of $300 billion.
From WaPo: It’s Only $300 Billion

A really nice article on the Administration’s misplaced priorities.

thoughts on gas rebate checks

One thing struck me about the $100 gas rebate checks. It seems to be indistinguishable from a money laundering scheme. As Mark Felt said, follow the money:

  1. Money comes from tax payers (or China) to the Treasury.
  2. Money is sent back to tax payers to pay for gasoline from existing inventories.
  3. Money is exchanged for X gallons of gasoline at pump.
  4. Money is deposited into Exxon-Mobil back account.
  5. Money is used to pay for new gasoline inventory from existing oil supply at current market prices.

While everyone is focused on the exchanges in steps two and three, the really interesting parts are steps one and four. While I haven’t been following every part of this story, I am amazed that the Media has ignored two key points: It will not lower gasoline prices, it will not increase gasoline supply. And since the money comes from the tax payers in the first place; it looks less like an energy policy and more like money laundering.

Tax Breaks for Big Oil: Bush Was For it Before He Was Against It

Today, President Bush rolled out his brave plan to roll back billions in tax breaks for energy companies. But you wouldn’t know from the coverage so far that what he’s really talking about is rolling back some of the more disastrous measures of the energy bill he himself signed into law last year.
From TPM Muckraker

I’ll avoid the easy flip-flop jokes and concentrate on what’s been sticking in my craw for the past six-plus years. This administration doesn’t know the difference between being friendly to business and paying people to be your friend. And its clear that this is just a trade off with the oil barons. A small cut in subsidies in exchange for the right to polute.

157MPG!

The car start-up developed a light-weight passenger car with outstanding aerodynamics. The Loremo LS is powered by a 2 cylinder Turbo Diesel engine with 20 hp and 160km/h top speed. The amazing thing is that the Loremo only needs 1.5l per 100km. This is approx. 157MPG! The Toyota Prius hybrid has only 55MPG (combined city and highway). With one tank (20l) you could drive 1,300km.

just kidding about that whole mid-east oil import reduction thing

It turns out that the chimp was just kidding when he said that we need to reduce our dependence on Mid-East oil imports. This is coming directly from members of the chimps senior staff.
From meat-eating leftist

An this is exactly what the administration wanted. The addicted to oil quote got a lot of press. The budget cuts to programs devoted to promoting energy independence got almost no press.

Overall, core funding for energy programs at the Energy Department would decline by more than $100 million, or about 18 percent from spending this year, according to an analysis by the American Council on Energy-Efficient Economy.
From AP

Once again the administration says one thing loudly for the press and does the opposite quietly when they think no one is looking.

Honda FCX Fuel Cell Vehicle to Go Into Production

Honda announced it will began building a new fuel cell vehicle, with the first Honda FCX model hydrogen-powered fuel cell car rolling off the assembly line "within three or four years." Along with unique ways of arranging the fuel cells within the vehicle, Honda also dreamed up an idea for obtaining the hydrogen necessary to fuel this baby.

hybrid cars

Wall Street Journal features business opinion columnist Holman Jenkins Jr. on the warpath against the Prius. Again. It’s a reprise of a satirical column published two weeks ago that succeeded in so thoroughly outraging Prius owners that Jenkins must have decided to take another poke just for the fun of watching the ants swarm.
“If Prius owners consume less, there’s less demand, prices will be lower and somebody else will step up to consume more than they would at the otherwise higher price. That’s the price mechanism at work. Oil is a fantastically useful commodity. Humans can be relied upon to consume all the oil they’d be willing to consume at a given price.”
If Prius owners really wanted to save the world, Jenkins suggests, they should all be driving Hummers, and using up oil as fast they could, so as to drive the price up enough to spur alternative energy technologies.
From Salon

I may want to thank the WSJ for making an argument for increased gasoline taxes. Since they agree that reducing demand will lower prices; wouldn’t increased gasoline taxes do the same as putting more Hybrids on the road? But since blinder wearing neo-conservatives can never muster us the courage to consider a place for something other than strict ideologically pure supply-side economics, they would never admit this.

In 2005, the sales of hybrid vehicles nearly tripled, and the outlook for 2006 is even brighter. According to Edmunds, Hybrids represented 1.26 percent of all vehicle sales last year, and the volume should double in 2006.
From wired

The Aptera prototype, which is halfway to completion, will go for up to 330 miles on a gallon of gas thanks to an aerodynamic design and the lightweight composites that make up the chassis.
From wired

addicted to oil

Now that Bush has used the phrase addicted to oil maybe he can give credit to the folks on the left that have been talking about this for five years or more.

Anyone that thinks that the left doesn’t have any good ideas about this, probably hasn’t heard about The Apollo PAC. Why should we be getting energy from the Mid-East, when we could get it from the Mid-West?

Sadly, there hasn’t been an update since the ‘04 election. But it does illustrate yet another issue where Kerry was way ahead of Bush.

the Saudi Arabia of coal

If the vast, empty plain of eastern Montana is the Saudi Arabia of coal, then Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a prairie populist with a bolo tie and an advanced degree in soil science, may be its Lawrence
He is also promoting wind energy and the use of biofuels, using oil from crops like soybeans as a blend. The governor signed a measure this year that requires Montana to get 10 percent of its energy from wind power by 2010, a goal he said would be reached within a few years. Still, the Big Sky State, with a population under a million, has fewer people than the average metro area of a midsize American city, and its influence is limited. The governor acknowledged as much
From the NYT