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Archive for the ‘wind’ Category

I’ve been trying to think of a word to describe the recent republican de-bate more precisely.  I have heard some people refer to the flashy spectacle as an eleven-ring circus.  That imagery does not allow that a few hopefuls did in fact speak about real societal concerns and reforms.  Until I think of a better term I’ll simply refer to it as a “trump-bait,” providing space for the variety of crafty, yet factually-suspicious remarks.

I was not surprised that clean, renewable energy industries did not get spoken about by the candidates even though a majority of republican voters favor them.  I’m still mystified by this!  Renewable technologies are some of the fastest growing industries in this country and especially so elsewhere on the planet.  Solar PV and wind turbines are mainstream energy conversion sources!  Wake up, candidates!

Germany now celebrates on the days when virtually all their electricity is produced from renewable sources.  Iowa is getting 27% of their electricity from wind power right now.  California gets 25% of their electricity from renewables and last week they passed a measure seeking 50% by 2030.  Texas, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Arizona: the list of states with fast growing RE markets keeps getting bigger.

Here in Florida Algenol Biofuels has announced plans to begin distribution of their algae-derived ethanol and build a larger production facility in Central Florida.  Protec Fuel has opened its fourth E15 station in the state bringing their total to 28 in the Southeast.  The Florida Supreme Court is weighing who will control the profits brought by anticipated PV sales and installations.  Will the Court give outsiders a shot at the money investor owned utilities are claiming?

Alternative energy systems were not invented as a response to the atmospheric effects of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.  Candidates have no need to apologize to their global warming denying peers that renewable energy is a good thing.  Alternative energy was researched and commercialized largely because scientists know that carbon deposits will someday be exhausted.  Peak dates for oil and coal are constantly being pushed back because new drilling technologies are allowing us to find and sip from the very bottom of these submerged, frozen barrels.  Nevertheless, they are finite!

How can the presidential candidates not be excited by the financial and job opportunities that are underway in these RE markets?  They don’t even have to reveal a position on what many scientists describe as the most critical issue facing the earth.  Isn’t “economic growth” the republican byword?  I suspect that The Donald may be keeping quiet about it, but that he knows where to put HIS money.

Sam Kendall

 

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Duke Energy has been tipped into supplying the North Carolina Google Data Center with renewable energy.  Google is going to pay the power company a “Green Source Rider” for the clean electricity; in other words a tariff.  The Search Company said it made more sense for Duke to provide the renewable energy than to build it themselves.  Evidently, the plan is going to be used by other big Duke customers that want to go green.  Duke said it might match some of the applicants with third-party solar and wind suppliers through Power Purchase Agreements.  In all, 700 megawatts of solar could be added in Duke’s North Carolina territory alone.

Google may already be more invested in solar and wind than any other company.  But fortunately, there is competition for that honor.  Apple, Facebook, Walmart, IKEA and others are putting out $billions to power their shops with clean energy.  Facebook wanted clean energy for their data center in Iowa.  Their utility has now invested $1.9 billion in wind farms.  Of course we want to thank Duke but let’s not forget their environmental record; coal ash spills and eagle deaths on poorly located wind turbines.  North Carolina should boost Duke’s RPS requirement as part of the settlement for those offenses.

The term corporate power has not always been associated with good things.  The influence of corporate money and their lobbyists have usually worked against the interests of citizens, especially in delaying beneficial health regulations.  We are witnessing now the decline in influence of coal companies but the Goliaths of oil and gas are still standing.

Now the 21st century twist.  We have large corporations influencing a better choice of energy supplied by the entrenched electric utilities.  For years, concerned citizens and environmental groups have asked utilities to close down their coal and nuclear plants and “go solar.”  Corporate money still speaks the loudest but this time the voice is sweet.  Investor owned utilities are finally finding ways to get into the solar business and this is going to bring the cost of PV down even more.

What corporation is going to squeeze more solar out of Florida Power and Light?  Last week FPL introduced their own version of a Green Source Rider and we can only wish it had been the result of corporate pressure.  They’re going to see how many of their customers will be willing to pay an extra $9 on their monthly bills to finance solar energy projects.  A company spokesman said polling indicated that enough customers will volunteer to fund 2.4 megawatts of solar perhaps in three years.  FPL announced this program a short while after a bill designed to promote solar on commercial buildings such as warehouses and data centers was killed in the Florida legislature.

Only .06% of the FPL fuel mix currently comes from solar.  This modest pilot program on the backs of solar volunteers will hardly improve that percentage.  Combine this half-hearted initiative with the Florida legislators who oppose common-sense solar policies for businesses.  Add in the legislators who want to exempt Florida from the proposed EPA carbon pollution standards for new power plants.  This is corporate power in the sunshine state.

Sam Kendall

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On the website Think Progress I found an interview with representative Ron Desantis (R-FL).  He used the word “crass” to describe the all-night session in the senate last week where members of the Climate Action Task Force brought much needed attention to the present and future dangers of climate change.  Desantis claimed the event was just a gimmick devised by senators to show their big Silicon Valley donors that they were doing something about the issue.  Their real intent was to raise taxes, he said, but they knew the House would block any such effort.  His contradictory performance left me wondering if he understands the science which describes how greenhouse gases contribute to overheating and disruption of the atmosphere.

One piece of evidence presented during the session was a map showing recent average rainfall amounts compared to the past.  Virtually one quarter of the country is presently experiencing 25% less than average rainfall.  The drought extends from what has been one of the country’s most productive agricultural areas in California across the southwest into most of Texas.  Florida looks green on the map with some areas showing above average amounts.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson pointed out that low-lying Florida is vulnerable to too much water.  Hurricanes can move higher sea levels further inland than previously.  The result will be catastrophic, as we saw with hurricane Sandy up north.  Nelson mentioned also that our state is one of the most susceptible to heat-related deaths.  We can also expect a reduction in tourism dollars as businesses are forced to close by extreme weather events.  You can find brief summaries of all the senators remarks here.

For an up-to-date understanding of the present costs related to rising sea levels Mr. Desantis should visit his local government colleagues in south Florida.  Thoughtful and pragmatic municipal and county officials have been working on the problem there for four years.  In a bi-partisan consensus the county commissions of Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe have come together to form a Regional Climate Change Compact.  Salt water flowing over their lawns and streets and intruding into their fresh water supplies convinced them to begin collaborative action.  Together the commissioners and staff members are moving forward to implement greenhouse gas mitigation and climate adaptation strategies for their region.

Sam Kendall

 

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President Obama might get a reprieve from the politically fired Keystone XL decision.  Last week a Nebraska judge ruled that the governor didn’t have the legal right to grant the pipeline company eminent domain.  She said that authority rested with the Public Service Commission.  Appeals will be filed but that all takes time.

Moving tar sands oil through a pipe is not going to produce much CO2.  Moving the oil by rail would be less efficient and would produce CO2.  The rail option has more problems.  There are not enough tanker cars presently available to transport the more than 800,000 gallons of bitumen anticipated every day.  Up to six times as many cars will be needed to do the job.  Last year’s tanker car accident up in Canada and a more recent one in Montana spotlight the inherent dangers.  I doubt that towns along the route will be happy to have six times as many trains rolling through.

A decision to block the pipeline will probably delay the movement of the tar sands oil into the US for a while. Approving the pipeline will accelerate the rate of energy intensive tar sands extraction, CO2 emissions and ecological destruction.  The possibility for polluting pipeline spills has already been shown to be a reality in existing infrastructure.

Meanwhile England is having historic flooding, California and Brazil are having historic droughts, a polar vortex stranded motorists and slowed winter economic activity from Atlanta to New York and Olympic skiers have petitioned the UN to take action to save the source of their sport.  Are members of congress hearing anything from their constituents about these extreme weather events?  How much time is left before the weather straight jackets all of us at once?

The president has moved aggressively to promote clean energy alternatives.  New CAFE standards are improving emissions per driven mile.  Regulations will soon go in place on coal power plants.  California and the states in the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are meeting their goals with cap and trade policies.  Cities are taking action to reduce greenhouse gases.  Greenlighting the production and burning of tar sands oil would be stepping back from the path established toward carbon reduction.

The president’s best action to reduce CO2 emissions from tar sands exploitation would be to impose an import tax on this toxic gunk.  Money from the tax would not accrue to the government.  It would not be a revenue source but a pure pollution abatement tax.  Money raised would be distributed out to taxpayers and not used to fund any government program.  Last year respected republican economist and more recently a climate activist, George Shultz, urged lawmakers to adopt a revenue neutral tax on carbon from all sources.  Revenue neutrality would give concerned republicans a way to take action on climate change.

The president should turn down the Keystone pipeline application.  This would keep the tar sands exploitation process a present levels and force the oil barons to build more cars and contend with the public’s new awareness of safety issues.  Then he should work with any members of both parties to build support for a carbon tax.  A pollution tax barrier is necessary now because climate disruption is upon us.

Sam Kendall

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President Obama renewed his commitment to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.  His welcome words in the inaugural address committing to action on climate change and his nomination of Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State certainly indicate he still feels strongly about this issue.  Senator Kerry has a long record of environmental protection.  In 1992 he attended the first world summit on climate change in Rio.

In June of 2012, the 20th anniversary of the Rio Summit, Kerry delivered a powerful speech on the Senate floor.  He denounced the current “conspiracy of silence and denial on climate change” which “empowers misinformation and mythology to grow where science and truth should prevail.”

The Rio Summit organizer, Republican President George H. W. Bush said at the time, “The United States intends to be the world’s leader in protecting the global environment.”  Kerry’s concern was that we now find ourselves in a place the former president wouldn’t recognize; the conspiracy has “demonized any constructive effort to put America in a position to lead the world on this issue.”

Three of Kerry’s demons were on the Senate committee that recently approved his nomination.  These three are supporters of the proposed Keystone pipeline down from Canada.  They evidently fear that Mr. Kerry is serious about reducing dependency on carbon fuels.  The State Department must approve the pipeline application before it goes to the president.  Mr. Kerry promised he will look at the science of the request and not the ideology.

Why should the US encourage continued fossil fuel combustion while risking pipeline spills?  Would it be to support the Canadians’ economic interest by having an ocean port in Texas to market their resources to the world?  The issues continue in Canada: tar sand mining ravaging the Boreal Forest, emitting tons of carbon dioxide with energy intensive extraction and contaminating water with chemical residues.  Tar sand partisans tell us building an oil refinery in Canada’s  back yard would be more expensive than plowing an 1,179 mile pipeline through the United States’ back yard.  Is something rotten in the state of Denmark?

These environmental and economic concerns go beyond our friendship with the Canadian people.  They too have a large environmental constituency which opposes tar sand mining.

On February 17, environmental and clean energy advocates will rally in Washington to “give their back” to the President and new Secretary of State.  The green grassroots need to get out and demonstrate support when national leaders challenge long-standing, powerful interests.  You can sign up for the rally HERE.

Both these men have stood up to big oil and the legacy of dirty, liquid fuels that have been a barrier to progressive change.  Rally organizers believe an historic showing of massive public support will break the old energy regime’s back.  Hope to see you in Washington.

Sam Kendall

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A mutual friend told me about Bob Stonerock back in the 1990s.  Solar energy had fascinated me for years.  My friend said Bob was the master.  I knew solar would mean a cleaner atmosphere and slow the rate of turning the planet inside out mining, spilling, burning, polluting, investing and warring over the energy stored in fossilized biomass.  Only recently had I come to understand how the carbon dioxide molecules carelessly farted out the back-ends of our cars were storing up heat and creating frightening predictions about the future weather.  At the time, I was running experiments to find out whether horse or chicken manure would produce the most natural gas.

I called Bob and he invited me over to his house for a talk.  I think he must have been one of the first, or maybe THE first, to have a residential photovoltaic system in Orlando.  He told me about some of the issues he encountered to get his solar system accepted by Orlando Utilities. (OUC is now recognized for progressive renewable energy programs) We discussed all the renewable energy options waiting in abundance on the surface of the earth: solar and wind, of course, and we also talked about the energy available in living biomass.  He gave me the idea to use a small light bulb inside my experiment box to move the temperature up just enough to make those microbes pass gas.

Bob had dedicated much of his life and resources to demonstrating that energy use doesn’t have to sicken us or the planet.  His was the first solar house I had been inside.  Afterwards he generously gave me his old leaf shredder.  I used it to break down various leaves and plants I was using in my experiments.  Eventually I moved on from natural gas to make practical, uncomplicated biodiesel fuel.  Bob even knew which restaurants would leave their used cooking oil outside their back doors (at night).

Bob with Volt Back of Stonerock house FREA---Tower of Power

1. Bob with his new Volt last year. 2. Rear of house

with PV panels at top, pool panels under and inside

  hot water panels on left. 3. Stonerock “Tower of Power.”

Presently bob is president of FREA.  Last week on one of the days when Orlando’s January temperature was ten degrees above normal, the Orlando Sentinel published his guest column about climate change.  You can read it here.

I’ve always thought global warming was all about the numbers of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere.  In the article, Bob does the addition for us.  I’m sure you know the result:  droughts across our food producing mid-west, the north and south poles melting rapidly, a Franken storm in the northeast causing billions in economic loss, acidification of the oceans reducing the fish catch, Greenland’s glacier slipping into the sea.  Guess what? Climate change has only just begun.

So what can Florida citizens and government do?  Here’s what some others are doing:

In 2009, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Jersey organized a system of capping and trading CO2 emissions with regularly required reductions.  It’s called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  The governor of New Jersey has withdrawn the state as he was disappointed that the original criteria have not been met.  The other state representatives are continuing to engage on the issues and appear determined to find the adjustments that lead to the desired reductions.  In the meantime, new, renewable energy industries in those states have been leading the economic recovery.

California is taking action, too.  2013 marks the beginning of their CO2 emissions capping system.  Companies that can’t reduce their emissions below the cap must purchase allowances.  The first auction is already sold out.  Each year the caps will be lowered.  The allowance money is being distributed back to electricity rate-payers whose bills are expected to rise to pay for the newer, clean energy systems.  In 2011, California already had an installed capacity of 19,745 magawatts of renewable energy and was producing 333 million gallons of biofuels.  In that same year, Florida had installed capacity of only 1,421 megawatts of renewable power and produced 39 million gallons of biofuels.  The only area where Florida came close to matching Governor Brown’s state was with installed biomass power.  We had 1,195 megawatts to their 1200.

But cap and trade is just one way to reduce emissions.  A tax on carbon is another.  The Canadian provinces of Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta have all instituted their versions of carbon taxes.  In the US, Boulder, Colorado was the first municipality to enact a carbon tax.  The Bay Area Air Quality Management District in California levied a carbon tax in 2008 and Montgomery County, Maryland added a carbon tax in 2010.

Which method will Florida legislators agree to?  Or will they?  As Bob says, we all must stop making excuses for continuing to use fossil fuels.  We must work individually and through government (together) to end the dependency.

Sam Kendall

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Candidate Mitt Romney said, ” President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet.  My promise is to help you and your family.”  What exactly was he trying to tell us when he concluded his acceptance speech with these words?

My first thought was that he was letting us down.  His own capacity and fortitude in the face of challenges doesn’t seem to match that of the American public.  It sounded like he was saying that climate change is too overwhelming for him and so he’s going to stick to the issues he can comprehend; namely, the fossil-fuel-based society he and the rest of us grew up in.  If I understood him correctly I was greatly disappointed.  I hope he clarifies his position soon.

Foremost climate scientist, Richard Hansen, just released a report demonstrating the virtual impossibility that the extreme weather events of recent decades could be caused by natural variability.  He has tracked the predictions he made in the 1980s concerning future weather events with observations made during the past few decades.  Those predictions have become facts for all of us to observe: the European heat wave of 2003, the Russian heat wave of 2010, the droughts in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and the agricultureal disaster across the US in 2012, when 60% of the country experienced drought.

Richard Muller, a scientist long in denial that human activity is affecting climate, recently announced a change of mind.  Refusing to rely on existing research, he did his own work going back 260 years and found that temperature rises always accompany increases in CO2.  His report is interesting because he addresses and refutes all the “legitimate” objections to climate change theory.

I suppose Mr. Romney could “help you and your family” by providing government financial support for the farm families who saw their corn fields dry up this summer or he might put a cap on food prices when this years shortages drive up food prices in the future.  He could have the Corps of Engineers build a sea wall around Norfolk, Virginia, where rising sea levels have flooded streets and home basements consistently for the past six years.

Dealing with climate change is going to take committment, imagination and perhaps sacrifice.  The immensity of the problem requires that all of us, working through government, prepare for the consequences and act with the greatest urgency to slow and stop GHG emissions.

Mr. Romney leaves me questioning whether he can provide the leadership for what may be the most problematic environmental challenge the nation and world has ever faced.

Sam Kendall

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