Saturday, September 5, 2009

The US freezes on climate change

Global Warming Could Forestall Ice Age, Study Suggests New York Times

Spain's Solar-Power Collapse Dims Subsidy Model Wall Street Journal

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Solar panels to boost property prices

Posted: 03 Sep 2009 08:36 AM PDT

Home Solar Panel Arrays

The UK website BusinessGreen reports on a survey of 2,700 UK adults, which "found that half of respondents are interested in finding out whether their home is suitable for renewable energy systems, such as solar panels":

Meanwhile, over a third said they would be willing to pay more for a house where some of the energy was supplied by renewable sources, suggesting that those investing in microgeneration systems will be able to recoup some of the cost through increased house prices.

The same should apply in this country, especially since a lot Americans understand energy prices are going up whether or not there is a climate bill.  The point is that as peak oil kicks in and the reality of human-caused climate change becomes painfully clear, energy efficiency, geothermal heat pumps, solar panels and the like will increasingly be seen as a desirable if not essential elements of a home, like an up-to-date kitchen, rather than just a "cost."

The story on the from the Energy Saving Trust survey continues:

Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said that the findings were good news for the UK's emerging onsite renewables sector. "It seems Britons are willing to pay more for a home with a renewable energy source so investing in a solar panel or a wind turbine could add to the resale value of a property and be as attractive to house hunters as a new kitchen or solid wood floors," he said.

The survey also confirmed that the high upfront cost of renewable energy systems — the cheapest solar energy systems cost over £3,000 and most technologies take anything between five and 25 years to deliver a return on investment — remains the main barrier to adoption.

Hence the need for maintaining tax credits, until we have a price for CO2 that represents its full damage cost.

Related Post:

"Green" Verizon sponsoring anti-climate rally backed by coal giant Massey Energy

Posted: 03 Sep 2009 05:58 AM PDT

Major U.S. companies must decide if they support clean energy, which delivers clean air and protects clean water for our children — or do they support the greedy corporate polluters?  This ThinkProgress post exposes another company trying to have it both ways.


On Labor Day, tens of thousands of people will be gathering for the coal-powered "Friends of America Rally" in Holden, WV. The point of the gathering is to rail against the Waxman-Markey clean energy legislation. It will feature right-wing guests such as Sean Hannity and Ted Nugent (who once ranted about killing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton), and is being pushed by mountaintop-removal mining company Massey Energy. Last week, Massey CEO Don Blankenship even recorded a video inviting people to attend the rally, saying they would learn about how "environmental extremists and corporate America are both trying to destroy your jobs." Watch it:

The sponsors for the rally are mostly regional oil, gas, and coal companies. However, the list also includes the Science and Public Policy Institute — a fringe climate-denial organization — and Verizon Wireless. CREDO Action recently launched a campaign calling on Verizon to drop its sponsorship. CREDO Political Director Becky Bond contacted Verizon's Vice President of Corporate Communications Jim Gerace to inform him that that CREDO would be launching a campaign against Verizon. Gerace responded by disparaging Bond:

This is how our response is going over with the activists. Becky once lived in a tree for a while. At least now I know where the emails are coming from.

For the record, Bond never lived in a tree. Verizon's vice president of federal government relations also sits on the board of the global-warming denier National Association of Manufacturers.

Blankenship recently gained attention because the Supreme Court rebuked him for buying West Virginia judges. He has called opponents of his coal "communists," "atheists," and "greeniacs" and labeled a cap and trade system a "Ponzi scheme."

Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Laura Merritt told the Charleston Gazette that Verizon's decision to sponsor the rally was made "at the local level to support the community." "It wasn't an effort to take a position on any particular issue," she added. However, the pro-coal policies that Verizon is now sponsoring actually hurt communities in West Virginia. As the Wonk Room's Brad Johnson has written:

The coal-dominated economy of West Virginia is a troubling example of the cruelty of coalocracy. Despite $118 million in coal-mining annual income, West Virginia has the nation's lowest median household income, worst educational services, worst social assistance, the highest population with disabilities, and nearly a quarter of West Virginia children in poverty.

Interestingly, Verizon brags that "environmental stewardship is ingrained in Verizon's heritage, and the company prides itself on having a positive influence on the environment in which it operates." It has a whole page devoted to its "green initiatives." Take action here and tell Verizon that if it really wants to be green, it needs to stop sponsoring global warming denial rallies.

Update Miles Grant points out that the rally is being held "on a previous surface mine," an area that has been decimated by mountaintop removal.
Related Post:">" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425″ height="344″>

Swing state poll finds 60% "would be more likely to vote for their senator if he or she supported the bill" and Independents support the bill 2-to-1

Posted: 02 Sep 2009 05:01 PM PDT

The Politico reports on a new poll of 821 registered voters "in 16 key states who said they were likely to vote in next year's mid-term congressional elections":

In a poll obtained by POLITICO of likely 2010 voters in 16 states, many of them home to targeted senators, 63% of those sampled said they supported the energy bill while only 30% said they opposed the measure.

Further, 60% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for their senator if he or she supported the bill while just 26% said they'd be less inclined to re-elect their senator for backing the "American Clean Energy and Security Act."

Yes, this is precisely what ever other major poll shows (see Yet another major poll finds "broad support" for clean energy and climate bill: "Support for the plan among independents has increased slightly" plus links and Ruy Teixeira analysis below).

This poll is important because it interviewed likely voters in 16 states that have a large fraction of the swing SenatorsAK, AR, IN, ME, MI, MO, MT, NC, NV, ND, NH, OH, PA, SD, VA, WV.  More key results:

  • Independents support ACES by 59% support to 30%.
  • On job creation:  50% say the number of jobs will increase, 26% say it will decrease and 26% say it won't change.
  • 53% say ACES will increase America's standing as a world leader in renewable energy, 28% say it won't change and just 10% say it will decrease.

Strangely, the Politico piece has an opening sentence that is flat wrong, politically:

With hope for Senate action on the energy bill dimming, advocates are aiming to prod reluctant senators with a new survey taken in swing states showing strong support for the legislation.

Hope isn't "dimming."  After many recent conversations with pundits, staffers, and real politicos, I find no substantive basis for that whatsoever.  Hope for Senate action is just about the same as it has always been — a tough slog, a 50-50 shot at best, unless Obama puts his full weight behind the bill, in which case passage becomes likely.

Indeed, what is most remarkable about this poll and the others is how strong support remains for the bill in spite of the best efforts of the well-funded opponents to spread disinformation:
"These poll results demonstrate that people support proposals that would boost clean energy technologies made in America, create 1.7 million jobs, and make us more energy independent," said CAP's Dan Weiss. "Despite big oil spending $80 million to smear the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a majority of Americans still believe that it would create jobs. Special interests' scare tactics have failed."
With all the brouhaha about health care reform, it's easy to forget the other big domestic policy priority before Congress: energy policy and climate change. Here the Obama administration's approach continues to receive solid public support. According to just-released data from ABC News/Washington Post, support is running about a 2-1 ratio for the proposed changes to U.S. energy policy (57 percent to 29 percent).

chart on energy policy opinion

Moreover, more people think these changes would add jobs in their state than believe jobs would be lost (36 percent to 15 percent). Evidently, conservative attempts to characterize the energy bill as a huge job-loser have so far failed to sway the public.

chart on energy policy opinion

Support for a "cap-and-trade" approach to greenhouse gas regulation has also been holding steady. In June, there was a 52-42 support for this approach; today it's an essentially identical 52-43 in favor.

chart on energy policy opinion

Finally, it's worth noting that the public's top-five-rated policy steps to address our country's energy needs all involve alternative energy and conservation, not fossil fuels or nuclear: develop more solar and wind power (91 percent in favor); require car manufacturers to improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles sold in this country (85 percent); develop electric car technology (82 percent); require more energy conservation by businesses and industries (78 percent); and require more energy conservation by consumers (73 percent).

It's clear which way the public wants to go. Let's hope Congress follows along.

chart on energy policy opinion

Imagine a World without Fish: Deadly ocean acidification — hard to deny, harder to geo-engineer, but not hard to stop — is subject of documentary

Posted: 02 Sep 2009 01:46 PM PDT

Global warming is "capable of wrecking the marine ecosystem and depriving future generations of the harvest of the seas" (see Ocean dead zones to expand, "remain for thousands of years").

A post on ocean acidification from the new Conservation Law Foundation blog has brought to my attention that the first documentary on the subject, A Sea Change: Imagine a World without Fish, is coming out.

Ocean acidification must be a core climate message, since it is hard to deny and impervious to the delusion that geoengineering is the silver bullet.  Indeed, a major 2009 study GRL study, "Sensitivity of ocean acidification to geoengineered climate stabilization" (subs. req'd), concluded:

The results of this paper support the view that climate engineering will not resolve the problem of ocean acidification, and that therefore deep and rapid cuts in CO2 emissions are likely to be the most effective strategy to avoid environmental damage from future ocean acidification.

If you want to understand ocean acidification better, see this BBC story, which explains:

Man-made pollution is raising ocean acidity at least 10 times faster than previously thought, a study says.

Or see this Science magazine study, "Evidence for Upwelling of Corrosive "Acidified" Water onto the Continental Shelf" (subs. req'), which found

Our results show for the first time that a large section of the North American continental shelf is impacted by ocean acidification. Other continental shelf regions may also be impacted where anthropogenic CO2-enriched water is being upwelled onto the shelf.

Or listen to the Australia's ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, which warns:

The world's oceans are becoming more acid, with potentially devastating consequences for corals and the marine organisms that build reefs and provide much of the Earth's breathable oxygen.

The acidity is caused by the gradual buildup of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, dissolving into the oceans. Scientists fear it could be lethal for animals with chalky skeletons which make up more than a third of the planet's marine life….

Corals and plankton with chalky skeletons are at the base of the marine food web. They rely on sea water saturated with calcium carbonate to form their skeletons. However, as acidity intensifies, the saturation declines, making it harder for the animals to form their skeletal structures (calcify).

"Analysis of coral cores shows a steady drop in calcification over the last 20 years," says Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of CoECRS and the University of Queensland. "There's not much debate about how it happens: put more CO2 into the air above and it dissolves into the oceans.

"When CO2 levels in the atmosphere reach about 500 parts per million, you put calcification out of business in the oceans." (Atmospheric CO2 levels are presently 385 ppm, up from 305 in 1960.)

I'd like to see an analysis of what happens when you get to 850 to 1000+ ppm because that is where we're headed (see U.S. media largely ignores latest warning from climate scientists: "Recent observations confirm … the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised" — 1000 ppm).

The CLF post notes:

Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warns that an acidic ocean is the "equally evil twin" of climate change. Scott Doney, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution noted in a public presentation that "New England is the most vulnerable region in the country to ocean acidification."

In June, dozens of Academies of Science, including ours and China's, issued a joint statement on ocean acidification, warned "Marine food supplies are likely to be reduced with significant implications for food production and security in regions dependent on fish protein, and human health and wellbeing" and "Ocean acidification is irreversible on timescales of at least tens of thousands of years."  They conclude:

Ocean acidification is a direct consequence of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations. To avoid substantial damage to ocean ecosystems, deep and rapid reductions of global CO2 emissions by at least 50% by 2050, and much more thereafter are needed.

We, the academies of science working through the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP), call on world leaders to:

• Acknowledge that ocean acidification is a direct and real consequence of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations, is already having an effect at current concentrations, and is likely to cause grave harm to important marine ecosystems as CO2 concentrations reach 450 ppm and above;

• Recognise that reducing the build up of CO2 in the atmosphere is the only practicable solution to mitigating ocean acidification;

• Within the context of the UNFCCC negotiations in the run up to Copenhagen 2009, recognise the direct threats posed by increasing atmospheric CO2 emissions to the oceans and therefore society, and take action to mitigate this threat;

• Implement action to reduce global CO2 emissions by at least 50% of 1990 levels by 2050 and continue to reduce them thereafter.

If we want to save life in the oceans — and save ourselves, since we depend on that life — the time to start slashing carbon dioxide emissions is now.

UN climate talks bogged down, need impetus Reuters

No Impact Man" charts US couple's climate fight Reuters

Plans for coal-fired power plant canceled Salt Lake Tribune

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A history of CO2 emissions

Can Dirt Really Save Us From Global Warming? NPR

Chevron vs. Ecuador: The Battle Heats Up BusinessWeek

European solar energy production

Poll shows support for energy bill Politico

coalition of corporations and national conservation groups that ... Is Controversial Coal Lobby Front Group ACCCE On The Verge of ... Huffington Post

coalition of corporations and national conservation groups that ...
Is Controversial Coal Lobby Front Group ACCCE On The Verge of ...
Huffington Post

Why coral reefs face a catastrophic future - UK

In bid to draw attention to global warming, 1000 mini ice men melt ... Los Angeles Times

Energy refutes Spanish 'green jobs' study The Hill

Poor nations need 'wartime' support against climate change: UN AFP

People won't change lifestyle for planet: straw poll Reuters

Thousands take emission cut vows at launch of 10:10 campaign

UK celebrities vow to cut carbon footprints Reuters

Goggle-eyed protestors swim against carbon trading tide

Wearing thermals won't save the planet

Climate change activists storm the Royal Bank of Scotland in the City Times Online

Kayak protest over climate change BBC News

Climate change killing corals, costing billions: study AFP

Wildfires and Climate Change Mother Jones

Scientists Argue that Climate Change Mitigation Strategies Fall ... Reuters

Arctic Meltdown Greenpeace International

Arctic Meltdown
Greenpeace International

Global warming, California, and wildfires Grist Magazine

Here Come the Tar Sands Treehugger

World must plan for climate emergency: academy Reuters

Outlook "Poor" For Great Barrier Reef New York Times

Great Barrier Reef May Face Catastrophic Damage, Report Says Bloomberg

Save reefs, forests to fight climate change: study Reuters UK

Chevron: No payment for enviro damages in Ecuador The Associated Press

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Report criticises geo-engineering technologies Financial Times

Investment in geo-engineering needed immediately, says Royal Society

Is geoengineering humanity's last hope to avoid catastrophic ... Scientific American

US agriculture interests split over climate bill The Associated Press

Public figures and business sign up to 10:10 climate campaign

Franny Armstrong: 'If you're not fighting climate change or ...

UN: Poor nations need $600B for climate change Forbes

Fw: Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Energy and Global Warming News for September 1: Big Money Returns to Wind Power

Posted: 01 Sep 2009 10:03 AM PDT

Chalk up another one for the Obama-Democratic stimulus (see "EIA projects wind at 5% of U.S. electricity in 2012, all renewables at 14%, thanks to Obama stimulus!").

[wind farms and wall street]

WSJ:  Wind Farms Set Wall Street Aflutter

After nearly a six-month lull, Wall Street is getting back into the business of financing new wind farms.

Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. have invested $100 million each to finance separate wind farms this month, taking advantage of a brand-new federal program that is paying substantial cash grants to help cover the cost of renewable energy investments.

Bankers say this is the beginning of an active pipeline of new wind-farm financing, as well as investment in large solar installations and geothermal facilities. Project developers and Wall Street appear to be viewing the federal cash grant program as such a good deal, industry experts say, it may grow much larger than its Washington creators expected….

Under the program, the government will give a cash rebate for 30% of the cost of building a renewable-energy facility, awarded 60 days after an application is approved. Investors are also given valuable accelerated depreciation deductions, which help offset taxes. Energy and Treasury departments have said they expect to spend $3 billion on the program, which started July 31 and runs through the end of 2010, and was part of the stimulus bill. But a government spokesman says requests for $800 million in grants were submitted during the first four weeks.

Some Wall Street bankers say they expect applications to grow to $10 billion, based on projected wind-power installations….

The strong interest echoes the $3 billion cash-for-clunkers program that provided incentives to trade in older, lower-gas mileage cars, and which was quickly overwhelmed by demand….

But unlike the popular cash-for-clunkers programs, there is no spending cap on the renewable energy grants, and the government has committed to spending as much as is needed to keep renewable-energy investments flowing….

Most of the investments are expected to go to wind projects, because the industry is more mature and in a better position to capture limited funds. "I would not be surprised if the program is ridiculously successful and spurs a huge amount of development," says Liz Salerno, director of industry analysis for the American Wind Energy Association….

It's not just Wall Street banks that are attracted. Iberdrola SA, a Spanish company that is the world leader in renewable energy by capacity installed, said in July that it expects to tap $500 million in cash grants for U.S. wind projects. "We've been in contact with the Treasury Department and we think the $3 billion is a minimum-type number," said Ralph Curry, chief executive of Iberdrola's U.S. business unit….

"If we have a quick recovery and we're going like gangbusters again, you could easily get to $10 billion in two years," says Kevin Book, managing director of ClearView Energy Partners LLC, a Washington consultant.

Venture Firm's 'Green' Funds Top $1 Billion

Vinod Khosla, the prominent venture capitalist who has been investing hundreds of millions of his own dollars in green technology companies for the last several years, will now invest other people's money, too, The New York Times's Claire Cain Miller reported.

Khosla Ventures, the firm he founded in 2004 after leaving Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, is announcing Tuesday that it has raised $1.1 billion in two funds that will invest in green technology and information technology start-ups.

Green Forest Works for Appalachia: A Win-Win-Win for Jobs, Forests, and Birds

In a June 2009 entry to the Huffington Post, Jeff Biggers listed ten reasons why President Obama, CEQ chief Nancy Sutley, and EPA head Lisa Jackson must visit Appalachia and launch a war for green jobs.If this Administration truly wants to win the hearts and minds of the region's residents, environmentalists, and green economists in Appalachia, they would do well to take a close look at a proposal called Green Forest Works for Appalachia.

The Appalachian region is a land of contrasts, abounding with natural resources, yet troubled by poverty and slow economic growth. Appalachian forests support some of the highest biological diversity in the world's temperate region, including a rich variety of migratory songbirds, but extraction of the area's abundant coal reserves has dramatically altered the landscape. With the Green Forest Works for Appalachia program, the Obama Administration now has an opportunity to address economic, environmental, and ecological challenges simultaneously.

Building a Green Economy: Green Jobs, Transmission Lines & Microgrids

Imperial County, tucked away in the southeastern corner of California, has long suffered from perennial unemployment rates exceeding 20 percent. Yet Imperial County is also home to the "crown jewel" of all geothermal steam resources in the U.S., making it a prime spot to showcase how renewable energy can help spur the new green economy so enthusiastically touted by the Obama Administration.

Late December, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved the construction of the $1.9 billion Sunrise PowerLink transmission line, which could send clean electricity from Imperial County to San Diego. However, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petitioned the California Supreme Court last January to review this decision, citing San Diego Gas & Electric's (SDG&E) refusal to guarantee that the transmission project would be reserved exclusively for renewable energy resources.

SCENARIOS: Fate of climate change bill in Congress

The fate of U.S. climate control legislation is in the hands of the Senate where it faces an uphill climb, as a year-end international meeting in Copenhagen on coordinated action to slow global warming looms.

A Senate bill has not even been introduced yet and Democratic backers say it could be late September before one emerges. Nonetheless, Democratic leaders still hope for a vote this year in the Senate.

The House of Representatives narrowly passed its version of a bill to mandate reductions in industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Here are some scenarios on how the battle in Congress over this part of President Barack Obama's policy agenda could play out in coming months:

Grid Lock: New Transmission Lines Key for Clean Energy–And Coal

Environmentalists are already hoping that the Senate tackles both energy and climate change this fall, rather than simply dealing with the clean energy bits (which are popular) and punting on the climate-change stuff (which isn't so popular).

Here's another reason greens will want to make sure they go together. Beefing up the nation's electricity-transmission system to make renewable energy a reality could backfire and make coal an even more widespread source of electricity—unless carbon emissions are reined in at the same time. That's one of the findings from a new report from Duke University's Climate Change Policy Partnership, "Electrical Transmission: Barriers and Policy Solutions."

Fuel Fight: The Battle over Low-Carbon Fuel Standards

How fierce is the energy debate getting? Some groups are launching ad campaigns against new energy rules that aren't even part of the climate package sitting on the Hill.

The Consumer Energy Alliance–made up of more than 100 groups including Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips, Peabody, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce–today kicks off an ad campaign in a handful of states "to educate American consumers on economic and national security impacts associated with a national Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)."

Gov. unveils new green job training program

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger came to Los Angeles on Monday to announce a new $75-million "clean energy workforce training program," which he said would help train more than 20,000 workers for green-sector jobs.

US Agriculture Interests Split Over Energy Bill

Legislation to confront climate change could be an economic godsend to farmers and ranchers. Or it could be an enormous financial burden. It depends on whom you ask, and not even farmers and ranchers agree on the matter.

It depends on whom you ask, and not even farmers and ranchers agree on the matter.

Those who are against the bill say it would lead to skyrocketing fuel and fertilizer costs, cutting into farmers' and ranchers' already unpredictable profits. Those who support it contend any losses would be more than made up for through a provision that would allow companies to meet their pollution targets by investing in offset projects, such as farms that capture methane or plant trees.

Global warming, California, and "What a 1-Degree Temperature Increase Means for Wildfires"

Posted: 01 Sep 2009 09:11 AM PDT


The scientific literature paints a hellish future if we don't quickly reverse greenhouse gas emissions trends (see "Climate change expected to sharply increase Western wildfire burn area — as much as 175% by the 2050s").  Even the watered down, consensus-based 2007 IPCC report acknowledged the danger:

A warming climate encourages wildfires through a longer summer period that dries fuels, promoting easier ignition and faster spread. Westerling et al. (2006 — see here) found that, in the last three decades, the wildfire season in the western U.S. has increased by 78 days, and burn durations of fires >1000 ha have increased from 7.5 to 37.1 days, in response to a spring-summer warming of 0.87°C. Earlier spring snowmelt has led to longer growing seasons and drought, especially at higher elevations, where the increase in wildfire activity has been greatest. In the south-western U.S., fire activity is correlated with ENSO positive phases, and higher Palmer Drought Severity Indices….

Insects and diseases are a natural part of ecosystems. In forests, periodic insect epidemics kill trees over large regions, providing dead, desiccated fuels for large wildfires. These epidemics are related to aspects of insect life cycles that are climate sensitive.

Now brutal heat and drought are fueling massive California wildfires once again (see, for instance, the BBC piece "Heat fuelling California wildfire").  We can't expect much from the status quo media (see "CNN, ABC, WashPost, AP, blow Australian wildfire, drought, heatwave "Hell (and High Water) on Earth" story — never mention climate change").  So here is CAP's Tom Kenworthy explaining "What a 1-Degree Temperature Increase Means for Wildfires" — and I'll end with some comments on this positive or amplifying carbon-cycle feedback:

map of affected areas

To the average person a 1-degree rise in average spring and summer temperatures may not seem like much. But for residents of the western United States—including California, which is fighting at least eight fires right now—it could mean a staggering increase in the extent and cost of fires according to a recent study.

In their report, researchers at Headwaters Economics, an independent nonprofit research group in Bozeman, MT, predict that climate change and the accelerating movement of western residents to areas near or in undeveloped forests will likely prove to be a devastating combination. That 1-degree increase in spring and summer temperatures, they conclude, will increase the area burned by seasonal fires in Montana by more than 300 percent and more than double the cost of protecting homes threatened by fire.

Though the Headwaters paper focuses on Montana, using data from 18 large fires in the state during 2006 and 2007, it has implications for fire-prone areas throughout the Rocky Mountain West. And it builds on a growing body of evidence that inaction on climate change will cost the western United States dearly.

Earlier this summer, for example, Harvard University scientists published a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research predicting that areas burned by wildfires in the West could increase by 50 percent by 2050, with even larger increases of 75 percent to 175 percent in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain West. Those increases could have "large impacts on human health" because of the added smoke and particulates released into the air, the study said.

Federal and state agencies responsible for fighting western wildfires, particularly the United States Forest Service, are already struggling to cope with the rapidly increasing costs of protecting lives and property. Since 2000, wildland fires in the United States have burned an average of more than 7 million acres a year, about double the average acreage for the previous four decades.

Federal firefighting costs have also risen dramatically, according to the Government Accountability Office, averaging $2.9 billion per year from fiscal 2001-2005 compared to $1.1 billion in the previous five-year period.

The Headwaters study predicts that state wildland firefighting costs in Montana will double to quadruple by 2025.

The increasing popularity of building homes in or near forested areas, known as the wildland-urban interface, or WUI, is a major factor in the escalating costs of fire suppression. A 2006 report by the Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General found that "the majority of [Forest Service] large fire suppression costs are directly linked to protecting private property in the WUI," with Forest Service managers estimating between 50 and 95 percent of large fire costs spent on that purpose alone. Though federal agencies shoulder the major financial burden for protecting those homes, development decisions in wild areas are made by local and state officials.

"While fire-prone lands are being developed, the climate is warming, leading to more large fires," write the authors of the Headwaters Economics report, which notes that with just 14 percent of the wildland urban interface developed in the West, the cost of protecting those areas will increase significantly. "More development in these sensitive areas would lead to more wildfire suppression costs, even in the absence of climate change. Climate change will only exacerbate this effect."

Climate change and its impacts on temperature, drought, and snowpack runoff will affect fires as well as many other aspects of life in the West.

Climate models predict that global warming will significantly reduce snow runoff in the West, the region's major source of water. A study published in April by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography estimated that the Colorado River, the lifeline for 27 million people in the Southwest, will not be able to produce its allocated water supply 60 percent to 90 percent of the time by mid-century. That would have major impacts on food production, recreation, and development in the fastest-growing region in the nation. It will also mean forests will dry out sooner, with a likely increase in fire activity.

And in recent years, a widespread and so far unchecked epidemic of mountain pine beetles that has killed millions of acres of trees from Colorado north into Canada has laid the foundation for a potentially large increase in catastrophic fires. Climate change has played a role in that outbreak, too, as warmer winters spare the beetles from low temperatures that would normally kill them off, and drought stresses trees.

In the western United States, mountain pine beetles have killed some 6.5 million acres of forest, according to the Associated Press. As large as that path of destruction is, it's dwarfed by the 35 million acres killed in British Columbia, which has experienced a rash of forest fires this summer that as of early this month had burned more than 155,000 acres. In the United States to date about 5.2 million acres—an area larger than Massachusetts—have burned this year.

Destruction of trees by the mountain pine beetle, combined with climate change and fire, makes for a dangerous feedback loop. Dead forests sequester less carbon dioxide. Burning forests release lots of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. More carbon dioxide adds to climate change, which raises temperatures, stresses forests, and makes more and bigger fires more likely.

It's a frightening prospect, as British Columbia's Forests Minister Pat Bell told an International Energy Agency conference last week. "I am not a doomsayer," said Bell. "I am not one who wants to say we are beyond the tipping point. But I am afraid that we are getting close to that."

The final reason to worry about the climate-wildfire connection is that wildfires are a classic amplifying feedback, since burning forests release carbon dioxide that accelerates global warming. As the 2006 Science article, "Warming and Earlier Spring Increase Western U.S. Forest Wildfire Activity" (subs. req'd), concludes soberly:

… virtually all climate-model projections indicate that warmer springs and summers will occur over the region in coming decades. These trends will reinforce the tendency toward early spring snowmelt and longer fire seasons. This will accentuate conditions favorable to the occurrence of large wildfires, amplifying the vulnerability the region has experienced since the mid-1980s. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's consensus range of 1.5° to 5.8°C projected global surface temperature warming by the end of the 21st century is considerably larger than the recent warming of less than 0.9°C observed in spring and summer during recent decades over the western region.

If the average length and intensity of summer drought increases in the Northern Rockies and mountains elsewhere in the western United States, an increased frequency of large wildfires will lead to changes in forest composition and reduced tree densities, thus affecting carbon pools. Current estimates indicate that western U.S. forests are responsible for 20 to 40% of total U.S. carbon sequestration. If wildfire trends continue, at least initially, this biomass burning will result in carbon release, suggesting that the forests of the western United States may become a source of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide rather than a sink, even under a relatively modest temperature-increase scenario. Moreover, a recent study has shown that warmer, longer growing seasons lead to reduced CO2 uptake in high-elevation forests, particularly during droughts. Hence, the projected regional warming and consequent increase in wildfire activity in the western United States is likely to magnify the threats to human communities and ecosystems, and substantially increase the management challenges in restoring forests and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

We are simply running out of time to stop all of the carbon-cycle feedbacks from intensifying and to stop these devastating, record-breaking wildfires from becoming the normal climate.

The rhetoric gap: Can Obama give 'em Hell (and High Water) before it's too late?

Posted: 01 Sep 2009 06:57 AM PDT

News"We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace: business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering," President Franklin Roosevelt told an audience in Madison Square Garden in 1936. "They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred."

Can anyone imagine President Barack Obama saying anything like that? The nickname of Roosevelt's successor in the White House, Harry Truman, was "Give-'Em-Hell Harry." As the Republican minority, backed by an avalanche of special-interest money, mobilizes to thwart the health reform agenda of the Democratic majority, maybe the time has come for "Give-'Em-Hell Barry."

The most dangerous deficit that the United States faces is not the budget deficit or the trade deficit. It is the Democrats' demagogy deficit. Franklin Roosevelt, looking down from that Hyde Park in the sky, would not be surprised that conservatives are seeking to channel populist anger and anxiety, not against the Wall Street elites who wrecked the economy, but against reformers promoting healthcare reform and economic security for ordinary people. As he told his audience in 1936, "It is an old strategy of tyrants to delude their victims into fighting their battles for them." But FDR would be shocked by the inability of his party to mobilize the public on behalf of reform.

Michael Lind has a terrific Salon column today, with the subhead, "Why can't Democrats mobilize the public for healthcare reform? Blame the demagogy gap."  I'd replace demagogy with the less incendiary and more accurate "rhetoric gap."

Demagogues are a dime a dozen, and demagogy isn't inherently persuasive or winning.  But rhetoric is.  Rhetoric is what makes a great, successful President (see "The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor": How to be as persuasive as Lincoln, 3).

I blog about the health care debate in part because success there probably makes it more likely we'll see a climate bill and in part for what it tells us about Obama's messaging.  The 'good' news on the first front is that the American Enterprise Institute's savvy centrist Norman Ornstein writes today that "The odds remain reasonable that a solid, if not dramatic, health reform bill can make it through this process and become law. Any bill, under these conditions, will be a major accomplishment. The odds have been improved, not damaged, by the president's approach" — thanks to "Obama's Health-Care Realism."  We'll see.

Although he has the eloquence to be an FDR — and his achievements in clean energy and climate to date are far greater than most progressives give him credit for (see "The Green clean energy FDR: Obama's first 100 days make — and may remake — history") — Obama can't truly be the clean energy FDR if he doesn't master FDR's ability to fight rhetorical fire with fire.

Now, unlike health care, where the whole message is a muddle, team Obama has half of the energy and climate message right (see "Clean energy messaging 101: 'Green' jobs are out, 'clean energy' jobs are in").

And that's why they are doing better on climate than health care — having passed a bill through the house and still winning on the issue in the polls.

But team Obama has mostly given up half its message unilaterally.  As I wrote in July — and as subsequent conversations support — I'm told by multiple sources that the political operatives in the White House have bought into the ecoAmerica bullshit that we mustn't explain to the public the serious threat posed by climate change (see Messaging 101b: EcoAmerica's phrase 'our deteriorating atmosphere' isn't going to replace 'global warming' — and that's a good thing).  And bullshit it is (see Mark Mellman must read on climate messaging: "A strong public consensus has emerged on the reality and severity of global warming, as well as on the need for federal action" — ecoAmerica "could hardly be more wrong").  That's a key reason Obama didn't even show up for the single biggest climate science announcement of his administration — the report on U.S. climate impacts — thus negating any impact it might have had on the debate (see here).

Of course, the White House doesn't have any problem telling the public and the media day after day the myriad catastrophic consequences that await the country if we don't act on health care (millions more without health care, a bankrupt economy, exploding premiums).  No, it's only talking about the myriad catastrophic consequences that await the country if we don't act on climate that is verboten.  That means most of the messaging will be on clean energy and jobs — which is a great message, one I've pushed for two decades now — but it hardly justifies or motivates a 42% reduction in CO2 emissions in two decades and an 83% reduction in four decades, along with all the extensive accompanying regulations.

Since the other side has no positive message on climate, this half-message may still may work.  But fundamentally, it is wrong headed, and I'll lay out the full message this month.  Obama needs to give 'em Hell and High Water.

I'll end by excerpting the Lind piece at length because I think it makes some important points:

Liberal intellectuals, shocked by McCarthyism and the rejection by the voters of the urbane Adlai Stevenson for Dwight Eisenhower, concluded that the American people themselves were the problem. In "The Age of Reform" and other works, the influential liberal historian Richard Hofstadter argued that the Progressive and Populist movements, far from being the precursors of New Deal liberalism, were reactionary movements by downwardly mobile professionals or farmers suffering from "status anxiety." Seymour Martin Lipset and other sociologists and historians including Daniel Bell and Peter Viereck argued that many members of the working class had "authoritarian personalities" and that populism here as in Europe could lead to fascism. Although more accurate historians and pollsters demolished their caricature of working-class Americans as proto-Nazis suffering from "status anxiety," the damage had been done. The New Left of the 1970s and 1980s, clashing with socially conservative blue-collar "hard-hats," were if anything even more hostile to the white working class, and sought allies instead among blacks, immigrants and various "social movements," most of them staffed and run by members of the college-educated upper middle class.

Whereas progressives and populists alike had been able to invoke the people against the interests, the mid-century liberals and many of their successors on the center-left to this day fear the people even more than they fear the interests. They worry that if liberals rile up the crowd against Wall Street, the rampaging mob, like the torch-bearing Transylvanian villagers in the old Universal Pictures Frankenstein movies, might turn on the universities or carry out political pogroms against minorities. When passion and polemic are ruled out as uncivil, when appeals to the people and their tradition are ruled out by liberalism's own theory of itself, it is hard to see how there can be a popular liberal politics, as distinct from a politics of brokering among interests or elite reforms from above. It follows that liberals should focus on keeping the public calm, while carrying out reforms on their behalf — but without their participation — on the basis of negotiations among politicians, public-spirited nonprofit activists, and enlightened interest groups. The Obama administration's approach to healthcare reform has followed this script exactly.

The two arguments on which the administration has rested the case for healthcare are calculated to appeal to elites, not the general public. One argument holds that it is immoral to allow a substantial minority of Americans, who are disproportionately poor, to lack health insurance. This argument appeals to progressive Democrats in the academic and nonprofit communities for whom politics is a form of charity. The other argument is that healthcare cost inflation will wreck the economy in the future, unless it is brought under control. This argument appeals to the Wall Street donor wing of the party, symbolized by Robert Rubin, whose protégés, including Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner and Peter Orszag, surround Obama in the White House.

But if you are trying to mobilize public support for a sweeping healthcare overhaul, appealing to charity or the concerns of bondholders is not the way to go about it. "Vote your interests!" Harry Truman told Americans in 1948. Most Americans have employer-provided healthcare. They are worried about keeping it if they lose their jobs and about the rising cost of deductibles. Democrats should have sold healthcare reform as establishing a permanent, universal right to affordable healthcare.

You also can't fight and win a war without naming your enemies. In the case of healthcare, the enemies of the American people — if I may be demagogic as well as accurate — include rent-seeking insurance companies, rent-seeking pharma companies, and overcompensated doctors and hospitals.

Last but not least, you need a narrative in which today's campaign is not an isolated technocratic attempt to solve a particular public policy problem, but part of the ongoing story of progressive reform in America. In his 1964 Democratic convention speech, Lyndon Johnson invoked American history in laying out the vision of the Great Society: "The Founding Fathers dreamed America before it was. The pioneers dreamed of great cities on the wilderness that they crossed." It's hard to make that appeal if you agree with elements of the academic left that the Founders were self-seeking crooks, that the pioneers were genocidal monsters and that great cities on the wilderness are ecological disasters. The consensus liberals of the mid-20th century and the multicultural liberals of the late 20th century have been too busy exaggerating the anti-Semitism of 19th-century populists or emphasizing the racist attitudes of the 19th-century labor movement to invoke the ideals those precursors share with post-racist 21st-century liberals. But we can be inspired by the universal ideals that we share with our predecessors without endorsing or excusing their parochial prejudices.

A Rooseveltian or Trumanesque campaign speech, addressing the concerns of the American majority, invoking the heroic history of American reform and naming the enemy, practically writes itself:

You can read this excellent proposed speech in Salon.

I would note that, unlike health care, the public understands who the enemies are — the polluters, Big Oil, and the conservatives who have been kowtowing to them for years.  That's another reason we're doing better on climate than health care.

If Barack Obama can speak in accents like these, then he will be able to declare, like Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, "I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master."

As the debate moves from health care to climate care….

Posted: 01 Sep 2009 05:26 AM PDT


The Holy Grail of clean energy economy is in sight: Affordable storage for wind and solar

Posted: 31 Aug 2009 05:21 PM PDT

Enabling safe, clean energy that will never run out is a key to averting catastrophic climate change.  Roughly half the "solution" to global warming is solar and wind [see "How the world can (and will) stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm"].  Of course, many U.S. concentrated solar plants will use low-cost, high-efficiency thermal storage.  In the longer term, plug-in hybrids and electric cars are likely to play a key role in storage, if issues surrounding battery life can be solved and/or battery leasing strategies pan out (which would also create a large aftermarket for batteries that utilities could use).  Another strategy for grid integration is natural gas.  In this repost, guest blogger Craig A. Severance discusses what he learned about available technology from interviews with leading storage firmsSeverance is co-author of "The Economics of Nuclear and Coal Power" (Praeger 1976) and a former Assistant to the Chairman and to Commerce Counsel, Iowa State Commerce Commission.

As the world meets this December to set plans to halt global warming, it is expected America and other industrial nations will commit to a daunting task: reduce CO2 emissions 80% by 2050.  In just 40 years, a complete revolution in how we use and supply our power must happen, or the world will face catastrophic effects of runaway climate changes.

As a new power plant typically lasts 40-50 years, many scientists are now arguing we must simply stop building new power systems that use significant amounts of fossil fuels.  They argue we must move to a high reliance on the wind and the sun for our electricity.

Abundant Power. The U.S. has enormous wind resources, capable of generating over 20% of U.S. electricity from wind by 2030, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The sunlight  falling on our deserts, parking lots, and rooftops has even more power  – enough to supply 69% of U.S. electricity by 2050 according to published studies.

Other renewable power sources — such as geothermal energy, municipal waste-to-energy, and biomass – will also play a role, but they pale in size compared to the gargantuan resources of wind and sunlight.

How We Use Energy vs. How Nature Provides. Though nature provides all the energy we may need, there is a problem.  We demand power literally "at the flick of a switch", not just when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.

This basic fact about how we use power versus how nature supplies clean energy has caused many to discount the idea that wind or solar power can ever supply more than a small fraction of our electricity.  Critics of renewable electricity call it "intermittent" and "unreliable".  They say we can't "catch the wind", nor can we command the sun to always shine.

These critics see two possible choices for the future. We can develop more stable supplies of renewable energy by coupling wind and solar projects with storage.  Failing that, they argue we should give up on renewables as a primary source of electricity, and instead build more nuclear power.

The flaw in the nuclear path, beyond its tremendous cost, long lead times, and imported fuel, is that nuclear is not actually "dispatchable" power.  Nuclear plants are designed to run all the time at fairly steady output — meaning nuclear power cannot provide the "peaking power" now provided by gas turbines.  Thus, a nuclear path would still rely heavily on fossil fuel power plants to "ramp up" on a daily basis to provide the power needed during these daily swings.

A truly dispatchable system providing over 80% reductions in carbon emissions, therefore, must rely on some form of energy storage.  The energy storage can allow us to fully utilize wind and sunlight as our main power sources – supplying both "base load" power and dispatchable daily peaking power with energy from these inexhaustible supplies.

Energy Storage and Today's Grid.

Despite critics, wind farms and solar photovoltaics are already feeding zero-fuel-cost power into today's electric grid with little or no energy storage.  At current levels, the fluctuations in wind and solar output are backed up by the same "load-following" and "peaker" natural gas power plants that already must handle wild fluctuations in customers' demands for electricity.  Indeed, the DOE's "20% Wind by 2030″ scenario modeled how wind could supply this very significant portion of U.S. electricity needs even with no storage of the wind power.

As long as natural gas remains cheap and acceptable to use, many argue that developing ways to store wind or solar energy may be a case of "a solution in search of a problem".  They note natural gas peaking plants are cheap to build and don't need to operate much more than they already do, to provide firming power to renewables.

"Different sectors like to associate with wind power," the NY TImes quoted Robert E. Gramlich, policy director at the American Wind Energy Association. "But we don't want to give anyone the impression that storage is needed to integrate wind.  Even growing 20-fold, storage isn't needed."

A Better Way. Though wind and solar can be integrated without storage for a long time to come, energy storage proponents argue that coupling wind or solar power with utility scale energy storage is a "Better Way".  If stored wind or solar energy instead of natural gas plants can be used to generate power when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining, less natural gas will be burned to provide dispatchable power.

Though storage will cost money, burning less natural gas will save money on fuel costs.  Also, there are now times when excess wind farm kWh's have been sold onto the grid at extremely low prices or even given away, because they occurred in the middle of the night when there was very low demand for power.  Storing that wind energy, for sale of kWh's the next day when prices are higher, would generate more revenue.   While less dramatic, solar power production can also be shifted to higher-demand periods, from solar noon to late afternoon/early evening when utilities typically experience maximum summer peak demands.

The most important motivator, however, to find a "Better Way" is the need to achieve phenomenal reductions in CO2 emissions.  While it may take until 2030 to reach a 20% contribution to the grid, what then?  Going beyond this level will require dispatchable renewable power.  Twenty years is within the lifetime of any new power plant built today, so storage proponents argue we should already be building to achieve minimum levels of fossil fuel use.

Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES). A proven technology, ready to use now, for economical storage of massive amounts of renewable power is to compress air at very high pressures, and store this compressed air in large underground caverns, depleted wells, or acquifers.  When the wind turbines and solar plants reduce output, and power is needed,  the compressed air is released and run through turbines to generate power:

Source: Scientific American

Because the caverns or acquifers are so large,  hundreds of hours of output can be stored, providing the ability to cover very long "doldrum" wind periods or stretches of cloudy days. Most CAES turbines can also run in natural gas-only mode in the extreme event the cavern becomes fully depleted.   A reliable, fully dispatchable electricity generation system is provided.

CAES has a well established track record at scale.   A 280 MW plant in Hunthorf, Germany has run since 1978, and a 110 MW plant at McIntosh, Alabama  has been in continuous operation since 1991.

CAES systems use gas turbines almost identical to normal natural gas peaking turbines.  However, they only use about 1/3 the natural gas, because 2/3 of the natural gas energy in a regular turbine is used to compress air before it enters the turbines, and this compressed air would now be supplied by the stored air.  Natural gas would still be needed to heat the air before it enters the turbines.

CO2 Reductions. While not a 100% carbon free power system, a wind or solar coupled CAES power plant system can achieve >80% reductions in fossil fuel use.  A baseload CAES/wind system (designed to provide at least 85% Capacity Factor power to the grid) would typically provide half of its total power directly from the wind farm to the grid, without cycling through the CAES plant.  The other half of kWh's supplied to the grid would come from stored energy in the CAES, at about 1/3 normal fossil fuel use.  Total fossil fuel use per delivered kWh would thus drop to roughly 1/6 of a normal fossil fuel plant, an over 80% reduction in CO2 output.

A carbon-free electric system is also possible, with CAES plants fitted with thermal storage.   The thermal storage would store heat from compressing the air, for later use to heat the air going to the turbines.  Known as "adiabatic" CAES plants, the stored thermal energy replaces the need for natural gas, causing the entire system to run on renewable power alone.  Because thermal storage is costly, it is not expected CAES plants installed in the next decade will include it.  However, a regular CAES plant can later be retrofitted with thermal storage, when it becomes more economical or society demands zero-carbon power.

Geological Formations Suitable for CAES. A nationwide network of CAES plants could use the same types of geological formations, and depleted gas wells, as are currently used to store most of the nation's natural gas supplies.  Wide areas of the U.S. — most notably the wind-rich central states — have these formations and depleted wells:

Source: Coha and Louks (1991)

Cost of Renewable/CAES Power Systems. Because the caverns, aquifers, and wells are already there, CAES offers very economical energy storage.

Estimates for CAES plants range from $750/kW of generating capacity up to about $1,200/kW, with the difference being primarily the number of hours of energy storage.  A wind farm/CAES system (taken as a whole) capable of providing baseload capacity factors of 85% could be built for around $5,900/kW of equivalent baseload capacity, including the wind farm itself and the CAES facility.  While this is far more than a natural gas plant, it is comparable to a new coal fired power plant and at least 1/3 less costly than the same capacity if added through nuclear power.

Unlike a nuclear or coal plant, the CAES plant would be fully dispatchable power, able to increase and decrease its output along with fluctuating customer demand.  This flexibility  is a major advantage for usefulness to the electric grid.

Total costs/kWh from this system would also be competitive.  Estimates indicate that if the wind farm is built with the 30% Federal Tax Credit (still available through 2012), a total wind/CAES system could deliver baseload power to the grid at about 10.5 cents/kWh.  This cost would rise to about 13.0 cents/kWh without the wind Tax Credit. (Effectively, the Tax Credit if used wisely could pay for the CAES plant to convert an intermittent wind farm into firm, dispatchable power.)

Though more expensive than kWh's from a new baseload natural gas power plant (which would probably be about 9 cents/kWh), a wind/CAES system would be well protected from future fuel cost increases.  Also, at 10.5-13.0 cents/kWh, the baseload wind/CAES system would only be about half the cost/kWh  from a new nuclear power plant.

Pump Water Up and Let it Fall Back Down. Pumped hydro-electric storage is just that simple — when you want to store energy, use electricity to pump water to a high level.  Then, whenever power is needed, let the water fall through hydroelectric turbines to generate power.   You don't get all your electricity back (about 22% is lost), but you get it when you need it.  This enables you to accept power from renewable sources when not needed, and store it for use later.

Pumped hydro storage is the largest utility energy storage method in the world, with 20,800 MW already in use in the U.S.  However,  its use has slowed because of limited sites for hydroelectric power dams.

Enter Riverbank Power Corporation, with its simple idea:  combine two well-established technologies into one.  First, use standard deep mining techniques to create a large cavern 2,000 feet deep, under a body of water such as a river or abandoned quarry.  Then, install 4 gigantic 250 MW hyrdroelectric turbines at the bottom of shafts, for a massive 1,000 MW power supply available on demand.  When power is needed, let water fall down the shafts and generate power.  When renewable power is available, pump the water back up.

Source: Riverbank Power

Riverbank Power is now actively exploring 15 sites in the U.S. and Canada, for selection of its first five 1,000 MW pumped hydro (AquabankTM) facilities.  Wiscasset, ME is high on the list, where Riverbank has already performed successful bore hole tests of the underlying rock.  The Wiscasset site is very symbolic, as it is the home of the former Maine Yankee nuclear power plant,  decommissioned more than a decade ago. A boon to Riverbank Power is the site is still set up to connect directly to the transmission grid.

Costs. Because Riverbank Power has to dig out its own cavern, its cost to construct is significantly higher than a CAES plant — estimated at $2 Billion for the 1,000 MW facilities, or roughly $2,000/kW. Also, instead of dozens or hundreds of hours of storage, Riverbank plants are designed to run for 6 continuous hours before the water would need to be pumped back up.  The timetable is good for hour-to-hour or minute-to-minute fluctuations but not long stretches with no wind or sun.

Riverbank is confident of its business plan, and is not asking for taxpayer or utility dollars.  Its turbines use no fossil fuels, and the facility should last 100 years.  The company plans to buy power at cheap prices, and sell power when it is needed more, at a higher price.

If it does that for 100 years, the Company feels it should pay for the initial $2 Billion investment many times over, while creating jobs and giving green energy developers a solid market for their power.

Batteries to Store Power When and Where Needed. While both CAES and pumped hydro storage plants hold the promise of very large scale economical storage, they both require special siting.   CAES requires an available underground cavern, well, or aquifer, while pumped hydro requires a water resource.  Batteries, however, can go virtually anywhere, and take almost no lead time compared to the larger projects.

Xtreme Power is a company out there today, already selling product, by identifying customers who have needs and who are willing to pay for solutions.  The company has a systems approach employing modular battery packs that can be scaled to provide Mwh of power storage, together with power electronics control systems.

Xtreme Power can shift  4 hours of power to a later time, for roughly 5-10 cents/kWh.  In many electricity markets, the difference in value between different times of the day can more than pay for this cost.

The company has some large scale systems going in before the end of this year, and plans to deliver at least 75 – 100 Mwh of power storage in 2010, with more that can be delivered.  Most of its customers are large solar and wind developers, who are eager for a solution and ready to pay for it now.

NGK Insulators

Sodium Sulfur (NaS) Batteries. Another battery solution which is also already commercially available is sodium sulfur.  Xcel Energy has a 1 MW NaS battery installation underway from NGK Insulators to store up to 7.2 Mwh (in other words, over 7 hours of power), of wind energy for use when most needed.  The system will be adjacent to an 11-MW wind farm owned by Minwind Energy LLC, in Luverne, Minnesota.

Let's Not Store These Ideas For Later. When renewable energy was still a long way off, the solution to energy storage seemed to be the unattainable "Holy Grail".  It was always to be found, yet never found.

Now, however, the answers are actually here, and they are simpler and plainer than we expected,  Store air.  Pump water.  Use advanced batteries.   Like Indiana Jones in his Last Crusade, we need to know when the true Grail is right in front of us.

As Michael Breen from Xtreme Power told me, "Let's stop jabbering about it, . . We just need more demonstration units so the industry can talk about this more intelligently."

This is now happening.  Is the Holy Grail finally found?

Breaking: Boxer and Kerry to delay introducing climate bill — thank goodness (again)!

Posted: 31 Aug 2009 01:50 PM PDT

UPDATE:  A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Jim Manley, just released the following statement:  "Senator Reid appreciates the leadership of Senators Boxer and Kerry as they shepherd this important legislation through their respective committees.  They are working diligently to craft a well-balanced bill and Senator Reid fully expects the Senate to have ample time to consider this comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation before the end of the year."

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have just released a joint statement:

The Kerry-Boxer bill is moving along well and we are looking forward to introducing legislation that will create millions of clean energy jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and ensure American leadership in the clean energy economy.

Because of Senator Kennedy's recent passing, Senator Kerry's August hip surgery, and the intensive work on health care legislation particularly on the Finance Committee where Sen. Kerry serves, Majority Leader Reid has agreed to provide some additional time to work on the final details of our bill, and to reach out to colleagues and important stakeholders.  We have told the Majority Leader that our goal is to introduce our bill later in September. delay from the planned Sept. 8 rollout for climate bill strikes me as a good idea.  A month ago I had written "Looks like no Senate vote on climate and clean energy bill until at least November — thank goodness!"  I have said many times "Obama can get a better climate bill in 2010" — although that is true only if he and Congress have a coherent strategy to do just that, which at this point, they don't (see below).  The reality is that given conservatives' immoral intransigence and progressives' generally lame messaging, my statement should be revised to "Obama can get a climate bill — but only in 2010."

To the extent Boxer and Kerry are taking this time to develop a better bill and a coherent messaging/outreach strategy, that is all to the good, because it's increasingly clear we are going to get precisely one shot at this.  I had written in July:

Since the CBO has made clear that health care reform is tougher than climate action (also see here) and since conservatives see blood in the water (see TP's Inhofe: If GOP Can 'Stall' Or 'Block' Health Care Reform, It Will Be 'A Huge Gain' For The 2010 Elections) and since the  Senate will try to do health care first and since tortoise-like Senate floor debates are a lot longer than hare-like House debates, it is all but impossible to imagine the Senate vote on a climate bill before November.

Now it is officially impossible to imagine a Senate vote before November.  And I'd say it's now at most 50-50 the vote isn't until December or January, which would put a final bill, conferenced and passed again by both House and Senate, on Obama's desk maybe in March.  That should not be a surprise to CP readers.

I'll update my July 4-part analysis below:

1.  Senators just won't vote for a bill written by House members.  Not invented here.  Also, Majority Leader Reid said the bill is going to be pieced together from several committees, some of whom are very actively focused on health care.  So no bill capable of getting 60 votes currently exists and won't until late September at the earliest.

Now the individual bills won't be finished until late September, so the merged bill may not exist until early October.  Ideally, Kerry and Boxer will take the extra time to get Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) on board.  He is chair of the "the influential U.S. Senate Finance Committee," as his website puts it and very busy on healthcare.  To the extent that he supports the Boxer bill and Finance agrees with EPW, the bill has a better chance of moving.

Memo to Boxer and Kerry:  Can we please do better than the "Kerry-Boxer bill"?  The House bill was California-Massachusetts.  Olympia Snowe (R-ME) would be nice.

2.  Up until the last week or two, the deniers and dirty energy bunch had been eating our lunch politicking on the climate bill. We're finally getting organized but we need all of August and September just to catch up.

Hmmmmm.  If only some newspaper like, say, the Washington Post, would report on how well we're getting organized and how the polling is still good….   Nah.

3. Obama needs some sort of serious announcement from China that it is going sharply change its business as usual emissions path (see "Does a serious bill need action from China?").  The good news is that the Administration has been pursuing that aggressively (see "Exclusive: Have China and the U.S. been holding secret talks aimed at a climate deal this fall?").  Now I'm told by a non-government source who spends a lot of time talking to the Chinese about climate and clean energy that China is prepared to make such an announcement, but probably not until Obama visits the country after the APEC meeting in mid-November.  If this is true, then administration and Senate leaders should delayed a final Senate vote until after that.

Well, this key element looks like it is taking shape (see "Peaking Duck: Beijing's Growing Appetite for Climate Action" and " 'China will sign' global treaty if U.S. passes climate bill, E.U. leader says").

I see little point in a final Senate vote before China spells out at least some of what it is planning to do.

4.  The next stage of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen the first two weeks in December is very unlikely to result in a final deal, but it is likely to move the ball forward.  If so, it might be better to have the Senate vote afterwards.  Right now, the fence-sitting Senators are looking at the international scene through the lens of a dozen years of stagnation.  It seriously undermines potential support for U.S. action.  Some genuine progress at the international level could give Senators the kind of pivotal and historical role they see themselves as asserting.

That remains as true as ever.

But most important of all is that team Obama and the Senate leadership learn from the health care reform morass/debacle and get in front of the messaging and framing of the climate bill.  The climate bill is, as noted above, actually easier from a political perspective than health care reform — in part because our side has a clear, winning positive message.  But we still only have half a message — and in September I will lay out the rest of the message.

Deniers go ape for Scopes climate trial, Inhofe quotes John Stuart Mill — an early proponent of sustainability!

Posted: 31 Aug 2009 11:29 AM PDT

Who would ape the Luddite U.S. Chamber of Commerce in their call for "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century" on global warming?  Why the monkey-see, monkey do deniers at Planet Gore and the office of Sen. James Inhofe (R-OIL).

Inhofe's office actually quoted me:

Joe Romm, of the Center for American Progress, asks the board members of the Chamber "to declare whether they are evolved members of humanity or dedicated to our self-destruction." This scathing, ad hominem response brings to mind John Stuart Mill, who, in his renowned essay "On Liberty," discussed the practical implications of stifling opinions thought to be incorrect or misguided.

Note:  If you aren't evolved, then my attack wouldn't be ad hominem.  Ad simian, maybe.

In any case, my fact-based critique quotes at length from the major court case already held on climate science (see here), in which the witness for the deniers, John Christy, essentially agreed with the witness for climate science, NASA's James Hansen on the key points, and where he didn't, the judge explained that "it appears that the bulk of scientific opinion opposes Christy's position" and that Christy's view "does not fall within the mainstream of climate scientists."

What is truly bizarre is that Inhofe staffer David Lungren quotes Mill:

To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty.

So many things are wrong with this argument.  We're not talking about an "opinion."  Climate science is … science.  There have been innumerable "hearings," including the Vermont court case, but far more importantly, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change process in which every single member government — including the Bush Administration, China, and Saudi Arabia — got to "hear" every single word of the scientific conclusions of the hundreds of scientists who have reviewed thousands of articles (articles which themselves were subject to a scientific "hearing" in the peer review process).  The IPCC summaries are agreed to word for word by every government (which is one reason they tend to be watered down).  The results of the hearings can be found here and are summarzied here, "Absolute MUST Read IPCC Report: Debate over, further delay fatal, action not costly."

The deniers just don't like the facts that they hear, so they stick their fingers in their ears and yell "La la la la la la la" over and over again or is that "ooh ooh, ee ee, ah ah" (see "Can you PROVE to me that global warming is being caused by mankind?"*).

I am filing this under humor in part because it is unintentionally hilarious that Inhofe's staffer quotes Mill, a man who understood the difference between science and opinion — a man who was one of the early proponents of the argument that unlimited growth was unsustainable!  Indeed, on that final point, Wikipedia's entry on Mill notes:

Mill demonstrated an early insight into the value of the natural world – in particular in Book IV, chapter VI of "Principles of Political Economy": "Of the Stationary State" in which Mill recognises wealth beyond the material, and argues that the logical conclusion of unlimited growth is destruction of the environment and a reduced quality of life.

If you want to see just how brilliant Mill was, read "Of the Stationary State":

It must always have been seen, more or less distinctly, by political economists, that the increase of wealth is not boundless: that at the end of what they term the progressive state lies the stationary state, that all progress in wealth is but a postponement of this, and that each step in advance is an approach to it….

Even in a progressive state of capital, in old countries, a conscientious or prudential restraint on population is indispensable, to prevent the increase of numbers from outstripping the increase of capital, and the condition of the classes who are at the bottom of society from being deteriorated….

I cannot, therefore, regard the stationary state of capital and wealth with the unaffected aversion so generally manifested towards it by political economists of the old school. I am inclined to believe that it would be, on the whole, a very considerable improvement on our present condition. I confess I am not charmed with the ideal of life held out by those who think that the normal state of human beings is that of struggling to get on; that the trampling, crushing, elbowing, and treading on each other's heels, which form the existing type of social life, are the most desirable lot of human kind, or anything but the disagreeable symptoms of one of the phases of industrial progress.

That's someone ahead of their time.  And Mill wrote this in 1848 when the world population was a mere 1.2 billion — under 5 times smaller that today!

I seriously doubt Inhofe's office agrees with Mill's views, which they obviously don't understand.  I can't possibly believe that if Mill were alive today he would come to any other conclusion but that he was right all along and that we urgently need to stop the global Ponzi scheme and embrace sustainability fast.  After all, Mill also "clearly set forth the premises of the scientific method," something Inhofe's office utterly rejects (see Scientist: "Our conclusions were misinterpreted" by Inhofe, CO2 — but not the sun — "is significantly correlated" with temperature since 1850 and Inhofe keeps making stuff up, this time utterly misquoting Revkin on Hansen and "Uber-denier Inhofe misquotes Hadley, gives big wet Valentine's kiss to Pielke — go figure!").

It's worth nothing that in "On Liberty," Mill notes:

… the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.

Preventing harm to others — ruining a livable climate for billions of people — is what climate action is all about.


Finally, uber-denialist, Chris Horner, weighs in on behalf of a monkey trial for climate science in a piece a Natinal Review Online's Planet Gore titled, "EPA, Coward of the County":

They can't win, which is why they don't fight. They are cowards, and the more hysterical and threatening their rhetoric gets in the face of this refusal, the more they prove far too much.

Yes, it's a long way from quoting John Stuart Mill to quoting a Kenny Rogers song.  But what do you expect from a guy who works on climate issues as a Counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which actually runs ad campaigns aimed at destroying the climate for centuries. You can read all about Horner at  He is a master of pushing long-debunked denier talking points, stating as recently as April 2005, "the atmosphere inarguably shows no appreciable warming in the 25-year history of satellite and radiosonde measurements (initiated in response to the cooling panic)." Amazing how "inarguable" denier claims turn out not only to be arguable but scientifically disapprovable — yet CEI still keeps the long-debunked statement on its website.

Finally, the Christian Science Monitor has a great piece, "Are climate change deniers like creationists?" which notes:

Both groups willfully ignore mountains of firmly established scientific evidence. Both groups falsely portray the scientific community as divided over settled science. Both groups make spurious appeals to academic freedom, arguing that "both sides" of the debate should be presented as though they possess equal merit. And both groups derive most of their funding from privately funded think tanks, having scant presence in the science departments of accredited colleges and universities.

The piece then points out "in some cases, it's the very same people who deny both phenomena":

Steven Milloy, a prominent climate change denier and "junk science" contributor to Fox News, told the Cato Institute in 2007 that "[e]xplanations of human evolution are not likely to move beyond the stage of hypothesis or conjecture."

Actor and commentator Ben Stein, whose 2008 film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed claimed that belief in evolution led directly to the Nazi Holocaust, asserted on Fox News this year that "global warming is by no means proved."

Roy Spencer, a researcher at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, author of the 2008 book "Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor," and the "official climatologist" of Rush Limbaugh's EIB network, wrote in 2005 that "intelligent design, as a theory of origins, is no more religious, and no less scientific, than evolutionism."

Onion Scopes small

Energy and Global Warming News for August 31: Can push for climate bill forge lasting labor-enviro alliance?

Posted: 31 Aug 2009 11:03 AM PDT

Can Push for Climate Bill Forge a Lasting Labor-Enviro Alliance?

The push for climate legislation has bolstered an alliance of unions and environmentalists, raising the hopes of liberal activists who have long sought a lasting and influential relationship between green groups and labor.

The Blue Green Alliance — a collaboration of six unions and two environmental groups — arrives after decades of intermittent cooperation and some major disputes.

"Both of these movements have realized they really need each other to get what they want," said J. Timmons Roberts, a Brown University sociologist who has written on labor-environmental coalitions.

The Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers, after years of work together, formally launched the alliance in 2006. The effort expanded in 2008 and 2009, adding the Natural Resources Defense Council and several unions — the Service Employees International Union, Communications Workers of America, Utility Workers Union of America, Laborers' International Union of North America, and the American Federation of Teachers.

The alliance has focused largely on supporting legislation that would impose national curbs on greenhouse gas emissions and boost deployment of low-carbon energy sources that both groups say will create scores of new "green jobs."

… the alliance is booming, with a combined membership of partner groups of 8 million and a budget that has grown sixfold over three years to roughly $6 million this year, said David Foster, the alliance's executive director and a former Steelworkers official.

About 60 percent of the coalition's funding comes from foundations and the balance from the member groups, he said. Its paid staff has grown considerably, and last month it registered federal lobbyists for the first time.

The alliance is active in several states to rally support for the climate bill and has brought members to Washington to lobby on Capitol Hill. Last week, it kicked off a national tour with former Vice President Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection that will make the case for the bill in several manufacturing-heavy states.

"I think we represent an extremely potent educational force in the country by being able to reach out through those 8 million members and pull them together around a common vision of how we use environmental investments to improve our economic opportunities," Foster said.

Stop the Teabaggers, Give Them Green Jobs: Lessons From the Coalfields of West Virginia

West Virginia shows us how we could easily win over this key segment of society, working class whites, with a New Deal-style industrial policy. Currently, 85,000 people in the United States are employed by the wind industry; Slightly more than the 81,000 in the United States working as coal miners.

On election night 2000, the biggest shocker for me wasn't Florida, but that West Virginia had voted for a conservative Republican presidential candidate for the first time in nearly 70 years.

For decades, West Virginia, with one of the highest rates of unionization in the country, regularly voted for progressive candidates, even being one of only nine other states in 1988 to vote for the epitome of a Massachusetts liberal — Michael Dukakis. To know the story of West Virginia is to know why the progressive movement is failing to win over white working class voters. Because of their primary concern: jobs….

As a result of coal mining, West Virginia has a cancer rate that is nearly 70% higher than the national average . Every day more than three million pounds of ammonium nitrate explosives (a highly carcinogenic substance) are exploded in mountaintop removal. This is the equivalent of a Hiroshima bomb worth of explosives being dropped on West Virginia every month. Over 100 billion gallons of toxic sludge are contained in poorly regulated, coal sludge reservoirs from mountaintop mining contaminating local water supplies, leading to mind boggling rates of cancer.

A fact that is equally startling as the destruction of the mountains, is the destruction of jobs in West Virginia. Coal mining jobs have gone down by 75% with the shift to the highly mechanized, mountaintop removal. In the early 1950's, there were 145,000 miners employed in West Virginia; in 2004 there were just over 16,000 miners employed. While employment has decreased in coal mining, coal production has actually increased dramatically as a result of the environmentally destructive procedures of mountaintop removal.

Three Months From a Climate Summit, Agreement Far Off

Aug. 28 marked 100 days before the beginning of the annual U.N. climate change summit, to be held this year in Copenhagen, which is emerging as the world's last good chance to craft a new global warming deal. With time running out, however, global negotiators still seem far apart, and there's a growing fear that the world really could fumble the opportunity.

EPA chief to visit Gary for green jobs events

The nation's top environmental official will visit northwestern Indiana on Tuesday for an event touting clean energy's potential to bring new jobs to the state.

UN tackles climate change effects

Officials from UN member states are gathering in Geneva for a five-day conference on climate change. The World Climate Conference will look at ways to help countries cope with the effects of climate change, such as an increase in floods and drought.

As hybrid cars gobble rare metals, shortage looms

The Prius hybrid automobile is popular for its fuel efficiency, but its electric motor and battery guzzle rare earth metals, a little-known class of elements found in a wide range of gadgets and consumer goods.

On continent's boggy Arctic fringe, scientists search for signs of future climate calamity

Researchers say air temperatures here in northwest Canada, in Siberia and elsewhere in the Arctic have risen more than 2.5 C (4.5 F) since 1970 — much faster than the global average. The summer thaw is reaching deeper into frozen soil, at a rate of 4 centimeters (1.5 inches) a year, and a further 7 C (13 F) temperature rise is possible this century, says the authoritative, U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

American Clean Skies Foundation Issues Statement on the Growing Consensus for Increased Use of Natural Gas to Meet America's Energy Needs

Vice President Biden and Energy Secretary Chu announced this week the winners in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Clean Cities program intended to prompt development of cleaner alternative transportation fuels to reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil and lower carbon emissions.

Vice President Biden and Energy Secretary Chu announced this week the winners in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Clean Cities program intended to prompt development of cleaner alternative transportation fuels to reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil and lower carbon emissions. In response to the announcement, The American Clean Skies Foundation (ACSF), a nonprofit organization focused on energy and environmental education, especially as it relates to natural gas, has issued the following statement after noting a significant portion of the funding will be allotted to natural gas infrastructure projects:

"We applaud the U.S. Department of Energy for its decision to award a significant portion of the $300 million in funding for the Clean Cities program to natural gas projects. As the DOE has recognized, American-produced, clean-burning natural gas has a significant role to play in reducing carbon emissions as well as our unsafe dependence upon foreign oil. This funding will support development of natural gas vehicles and natural gas refueling stations, thereby leading to increased usage of natural gas as a transportation fuel in the coming years.