Denial of climate change, as seen here, is fast becoming a thing of the past.

Denial of climate change, as seen here, is fast becoming a thing of the past.

Imagine you are a Senator in denial of climate change science and you just won re-election by less than 20% of the vote. In six years, about 10% of your voters will be dead, replaced with a different 10% harvested from America’s youth. The dead old white guys were on board with denying climate change, the new voters want you to address climate change. That 10% shift closes that 20% advantage in your voting base. Your political career is over unless you do something about it. People are changing their minds and politicians will eventually follow.

Peter Sinclair has a post at Climate Denial Crock of the Week on Rick Perry’s apparent shift towards thinking climate change is for real. We recently saw a vote in the Senate that has most Senators admitting it is real, though very few Republicans admitted it is human caused. But a few did. One of the most conservative and traditional entities on the planet, The Vatican, is now telling us that not addressing climate change is immoral. Expect at least some US priests and bishops refusing communion to climate change deniers! (Maybe.) The National Hockey League recognizes global warming as a threat to their sport. Pipelines to transport fossil Carbon-based fuels are seen as less and less viable every day. Even utility bosses now routinely see renewable, clean, energy sources as a big part of the future, and the American Petroleum Institute sees anthropogenic global warming as a major threat to our future, which they acknowledge must be addressed by shifting away from … petroleum!

Is cheap oil dooming renewable energy?

It did in the 1980s, when exports were ramped up, prices went down, and a fledgling clean energy industry took a hit. Were that to happen now it would be disastrous.

But it isn’t. From International Business Times:

As oil prices have dropped steadily over the past six months … forecasts for renewables have remained strong. Renewables are still predicted to generate one-third of the nation’s new electricity in the next three years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It’s a promise that investors still seem wary of as shares for solar and wind have trended down on the perception that falling crude prices will threaten renewables once again, according to a post on Forbes by staff from the Environmental Defense Fund, a New York-based advocacy group.

A few key developments … have positioned U.S. renewable energy companies to succeed regardless of spikes or drops in the price of oil. These principles should largely hold true not just for the U.S. but also around the world, according to analysts at Bloomberg. “The collapse in world oil prices in the second half of 2014 will have only a moderate impact on the fast-developing low-carbon transition in the world electricity system,” they said in a statement last month.

One of the reasons for the difference, apparently, is the decoupling of oil and clean energy as sources for electricity. Oil was used for about one sixth of our electricity production in the 1980. Today, fossil Carbon based electricity generation is mainly from coal and natural gas, which have not experienced a drop in prices.

Read more here.

Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley

Lord Matthew White Ridley will be familiar to most of you as the person who wrote a really good book on evolutionary biology, but later became a “lukewarmist,” a variety of climate change denier who claims global warming is real but not important. To him, this may apply. He is armored in protective privilege as a wealthy member of the royal class of Britain, and he makes some of his money mining coal on his own land.

Ridley has made a remarkable claim that leaves some of us wondering what his next move should be, and what it will, in fact, be. Continue reading

America Installed 22 Times More Solar in 2014 Than in 2008

…he surge in domestic energy production — both fossil fuels and renewable electricity — is something nearly everyone can celebrate.

In terms of new investment activity and job creation, the solar industry has posted some of the best numbers in recent years. In 2014, new domestic solar jobs were added at a pace twenty times faster than the broader economy, bringing total jobs to 173,807. And a new solar installation is now being completed every two and a half minutes in the U.S., up from one every two hours a decade before.

Three coal plants in Kansas will stop burning coal.

Kansas City Power & Light Co. announced plans Tuesday to stop burning coal at three of its plants. The utility explained the move as one that reflects a commitment to sustainable energy and cost management.

The electric utility, a unit of Kansas City-based Great Plains Energy Inc. (NYSE: GXP), said it will stop burning coal in one unit at its Lake Road Station plant in St. Joseph, Mo., and at one unit at its Montrose Station plant in Clinton, Mo., by the end of 2016. It will stop using coal as a fuel at two units of its Sibley Station plant in Sibley, Mo., by the end of 2019 and at two units of the Montrose plant by the end of 2021.

Justin Gillis at the New York Times has this story:

Two charitable groups will spend $48 million over the next three years to help states figure out how to reduce emissions from electricity production, an effort to seize the possibilities that are opening up as the cost of clean power falls.

… Half the money will come from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization set up by Michael R. Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, and half will come from Mark Heising and Elizabeth Simons, a California couple who have taken a strong interest in reducing the risks of climate change.

Details are HERE.

A poll commissioned by the Center for American Progress on US citizen’s thought about energy has been released. The key findings are:

  • Promoting the development of renewable energy sources is a leading item
    on the public’s energy agenda, and five in nine voters want the federal
    government to do more than it currently is to promote sources such as wind
    and solar power.
  • While voters support increased reliance on natural gas in the coming years, by a two-to-one margin they put a higher priority on protecting public lands
    and natural places from overdevelopment than on opportunities for oil and
    natural gas drilling on public lands.
  • Two frames for setting energy policy have strong resonance with the public:
  • A BALANCED energy policy that addresses energy independence while
    better protecting public health, public lands, and clean drinking water;
    and
  • A CLEAN energy policy that promotes innovation and manufacturing
    jobs while spending the transition to cleaner renewable forms of energy.
    Both of these frames have stronger appeal than an “ALL OF THE ABOVE”
    energy frame
  • In addition to renewable energy, large majorities support other progressive policy initiatives, including:
    • Strengthening protections against pollution of drinking water and clean
      air; and
    • Permanently protecting special public lands for future generations.
  • Conversely, majorities strongly oppose key initiatives that the new
    leadership in Congress is expected to push that would weaken protection for drinking water and clean air, sell off some national forests or other public
    lands, and allow drilling on highly valued recreation lands.
  • Americans strongly oppose lifting the restrictions on oil exports, both on an unaided basis and after hearing point-counterpoint arguments on the topic.
  • Focusing on ties to Big Oil and the Congress’s continued support for
    taxpayer subsidies of fossil fuel industries is a compelling frame against an
    anti-environment, fossil fuels agenda in Congress.
  • Voters want the federal government to do more to promote both energy independence and renewable energy (keep in mind that for the most part, renewable energy leads to more independence): Continue reading

    You all know about the Saint Paul Aints. No, wait, I mean Saint Paul Saints. This is a local baseball team here in the Twin Cities. They are building a new stadium (much needed) right in the middle of Saint Paul to replace their old stadium out by the railroad tracks.

    What you may not know is that the Saints Stadium is going to be one of the greener sports stadiums built. Other people building stadiums should take note. From MPR News:

    St. Paul Saints stadium builders aim to make it a ‘green’ field

    … When the $62 million stadium opens in May, the home of the city’s minor league baseball team will take a major step forward as an environmentally friendly sports facility.

    A canopy of photovoltaic solar panels next to the baseball field will generate 103 kilowatts of power for Minnesota’s newest sports complex, a 7,000-seat facility owned by the city of St. Paul.

    “We think it’s going to be the third largest solar array at a sports facility in the U.S,” project manager Paul Johnson said.

    That’s only about a tenth of the power needed to run the lights and meet the energy needs for the rest of the stadium. But it will be a high-profile alternative to conventional electric power. The baseball scoreboard is expected to tout the solar power generated along with the score. Its panels also will shade a group dining area.

    Other features will include a storm water filtration system that will take drainage from the nearby Metro Transit maintenance facility roof and use it to irrigate the turf at CHS Field. Rain water also will be diverted to flush 10 percent of the toilets in the restrooms.

    Making the stadium environmentally friendly came with a cost. The solar project added an additional $600,000 to the project, and the storm water system added an estimated $450,000. But grants are covering the extra cost.

    Still, the price tag on the solar project has drawn skepticism even from some environmentalists.

    Eric Jensen, senior energy associate for the Izaak Walton League of the Midwest, is encouraged that solar energy will receive such a high-profile installation and that more people will see a practical use for it. But he said the funding from Xcel Energy would have gone further on other projects.

    “This is the highest dollar per watt,” Jensen said. “It’s the most expensive dollar per watt project.”

    But Gerken, the project architect, thinks even seasonal use of environmentally-friendly facilities can inspire the public to think differently. He cites light rail service at Target Field.

    “Many people’s first experience with Metro Transit and the light rail was ‘hey, let’s go to a Twins Game,'” he said. “And now they’re used to it, they know about it. … It’s an option to go to the airport; it’s an option to go to the Mall of America.”

    Ann Hunt, environmental policy director for the city of St. Paul, said the innovative stadium features aren’t just demonstration projects but part of a larger effort across the city’s public sector. Another example of the city’s environmental focus, she said, is the solar hot water system for the RiverCentre convention center. Hunt said it’s one of the biggest in the Midwest.

    “This installation heats hot water to help heat the RiverCentre complex and the Xcel Energy complex and provide domestic hot water for that facility,” she said.

    Saline is a small town in Michigan, just under 9,000 people. As the name might suggest, it is the site of a natural salt source used by Native Americans, later explorers and traders. Today the big industry there is auto parts, but the University of Michigan provides many jobs there as well.

    The First Presbyterian Church of Saline has covered much of their roof with a big solar array capable of covering well over half of their electricity needs.

    From the Saline Reporter:

    In early August, a 15 kilowatt, 56-panel system was installed… Officials recently received their first utility bill from DTE, which showed more than a 70 percent savings, said Chip Manchester, founding member of the church’s Environmental Stewardship group.

    During the September billing period, the panels generated 2,160 kilowatt hours, which is more than 70 percent of the energy needed to power the 2,800 square-foot building for the month. The electricity bill at the church went from $350 to $75, he said.

    “It (the bill) was definitely a pleasant surprise, it’s one thing to have it promised but it’s another thing to have it realized,” said Kurt Leutheuser, finance elder with the church.

    The $45,000 system is projected to fund about two thirds of the church’s electrical use throughout the year, last 25 years and pay for itself in 13 years. It was financed by the nearly 300-person congregation with the average contribution being close to $1,000, Manchester said.

    Geneseo, Illinois is a small town with fewer than 7,000 people. They plan to meet about half their electricity needs, on a good day (windy, sunny) with clean energy, after the installation of some new cool technology.

    From the Dispatch Argus:

    City officials have been notified of a $1 million grant for a one-megawatt solar energy array from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation.

    Total cost of the project is expected to be $2 to $2.5 million. Under the project, renewable energy would provide about half the city’s daily nine-megawatt appetite for power — enough for about 220 homes — between the one-megawatt solar system and the three megawatts from the city’s two wind turbines on an ideal day.

    The council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize Mayor Nadine Palmgren to sign an agreement with the foundation for the grant. Ald. Howard Beck, 3rd Ward, was absent.

    Council approval also will be needed for funding, seeking bids and awarding the project, according to electric superintendent Lewis Opsal.

    Geneseo’s solar array would be located on five acres now a soybean field at the foot of the city’s wind turbines, where it would connect to an existing substation.

    “It would be great for reducing our transmission costs,” said Mr. Opsal. “There is a long line of people very interested in that grant. It’s a perfect project for Geneseo.”

    Kathy Allen, of Geneseo, questioned if the project would lower power bills in the city. Mr. Opsal said, hopefully, the city would be able to hold costs steady. He noted a large utility recently raised rates 23 percent and U.S. power rates could double in the future because of the closure of high-emission plants.

    An example of Clean Energy marching forward:

    Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc., better known as RES Americas, said Tuesday it will build two of the largest commercial-sized energy storage projects in North America.

    RES, a wind farm developer based in Broomfield, Colorado, said the two projects will be built outside of Chicago, and once completed in 2015, will be capable of storing a total of 19.8 megawatts of power to support the local Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) electricity grid.

    These batteries will be on line, or should I say, inserted into the back of Chicago behind a giant plastic plate held in by a huge screw (I assume). by August 2015, and they will operate for ten years.

    Details here.

    Climate change and clean energy seem to be playing a role in the Kansas Governor’s race. Ari Phillips at ThinkProgress has a post on the race. The issue is preservation vs. abrogation of the Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standard, a state law that requires a certain amount of Kansas energy to be “renewable.” The Koch’s have spent considerable effort and money to have the law repealed. Democratic candidate Paul Davis says he will veto any effort to repeal the law. Brownback formerly supported the law but his support apparently has shifted under the Pressure that Refreshes (Koch).

    Davis said the RPS repeal is being championed by a very narrow group of far right special interests with heavy investments in the oil industry. He said this is despite the fact that the policy remains incredibly popular among everyday Kansans and public and private sector leaders who understand the importance of diversifying the state’s energy portfolio. In fact, Kansas’ RPS — which requires investor-owned utilities to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020 — is almost entirely fulfilled several years ahead of schedule.

    “Frankly, the RPS has become controversial because those who want to repeal the RPS have poured millions into Sam Brownback’s re-election campaign, which has caused him to suddenly change his position,” said Davis.

    Phillips points out an interesting irony. Kansas, the state, is named after a Native American tribe whose name translates roughly as “People of the Wind.” And, we all know about the famous Tornadoes in Kansas that are capable of whisking a young girls and their dogs to far away lands!

    See Phillips post for a lot more information on the popular and business based support of the renewable energy law that the GOP is now being paid to get rid of.

    Checking Real Clear Politics, the race is at present close, following a period of wild swings in polling results:

    Kansas_Governor_Davis_Brownback_Polls

    Since an earlier attempt to repeal the law failed, the Koch’s have pulled support away from the GOP incumbent. This pattern has apparently played out at the level of state legislative elections as well.

    So, we have a business-friendly and popular law, equivocal support or lack thereof by the GOP incumbent, a Democrat who supports the pro-clean energy law running against the incumbent, and a tight election. It may be the case that if Paul Davis wins, it will be an election where Climate Change and Clean Energy mattered.