Solyndra a Model of Why the U.S. Won’t Be a Contender in the New World Order

Going green has lost quite a bit if traction in the U.S. because of some really outrageous spin and it would appear the oil/gas industry and their lackey’s in congress to be the culprits. Despite the fact we can see climate change with our own eyes, and that some of the giants in the oil industry admitted greenhouse gas contributes to climate change, we’re heading toward more fossil fuel production with gas fracking and tar sands oil at the top of the list. Friends of fossil fuel have jumped on the Solyndra bandwagon of failure as some sort of omen that green start-ups are too risky, and therefore, unworthy business models in the U.S. during a time of renewed “drill and frack” mentality. But Solyndra is a model of a much more ominous nature. Solyndra’s failure is not due to an innovation that had no place in the market, or mishandling of funds, or was too costly compared to the competition, or because it was a vehicle of some underhanded exchange of money for political gain. While conspiracies abound around the name “Solyndra” the biggest problem Solyndra had to overcome was CHINA, one of the four new and fastest growing world economies. No the U.S. is not on that short list.  We’ll never make it at all if we continue on the path of fossil fuel for energy and stall moving forward quickly with green innovation.

Don’t get me wrong. China is indeed destined to get most of that tar sand oil from Canada, and so it is in the big fossil fuel burning category of nations. But China also continues to be a mixed bag for its energy sources and moving more and more quickly into the green foray. China recently emerged as KING of solar panel producers exporting its solar panel wares worldwide in numbers far greater than its competitors. But how did this happen you say and so quickly? And how come a company like Solyndra that barely came out of the ground went under so quickly? Surely there was a market for solar just look at China.

Just about all the reporting relative to Solyndra from ABC, to Fox, to numerous websites has been false and totally out of context, the main one being that it is Obama’s baby. Truth is Solyndra began in 2005 with a sound standing in the field of solar panels. Solyndra was the leader in innovation for solar. While standard solar panels look like flat screen monitors and utilize costly silicon in their photovoltaics (sun’s energy converted to direct current), Solyndra’s solar panels sported a tubular design that didn’t utilize silicon chips at all.

Solyndra’s solar panels are made up of 40 individual modules, wired in parallel for high current, which capture sunlight across a 360-degree photovoltaic surface capable of converting direct, diffuse and reflected sunlight into electricity. Using innovative cylindrical copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS modules) and thin-film technology, Solyndra systems are designed to be able to provide the lowest system installation costs on a per watt basis for the commercial rooftop market. More than 1000 Solyndra systems are installed around the world, representing nearly 100 Megawatts.

Lightweight: Low Distributed Load of 2.8 lbs. per Square Foot

Designed to Last for More than 25 Years

Easier and Cheaper Installation

Superior Wind Performance: Ideal for Windy Locations

Greater and More Effective Rooftop Coverage

Design Keeps Panels and Roofs Cooler

http://www.solyndra.com/technology-products/

From 2005 to late 2009, Solyndra panels were in the ballpark cost wise with standard solar panel manufacturers. Solyndra’s  founder  Dr. Christian Gronet earned a Ph.D. in semiconductor processing and a bachelor of science degree in Materials Science from Stanford University and was Vice President and General Manager of the Transistor, Capacitor and Gate product group at Applied Materials for 11 years. http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/person.asp?personId=54334387&privcapId=33681528.   According to their website, “Applied Materials is the global leader in providing innovative equipment, services, and software to the semiconductor, flat panel display, and solar photovoltaic industries. http://www.appliedmaterials.com/.

Solyndra had no problem raising over $78 million in venture capital quickly. From Climate Progress and verified by the DOE: “Solyndra raises its first round of venture financing worth $10.6 million from CMEA Capital, Redpoint Ventures, and U.S. Venture Partners. In October, Argonaut Venture Capital, an investment arm of George Kaiser, invests $17 million into Solyndra. Madrone Capital Partners, an investment arm of the Walton family, invests $7 million. Those investments are part of a $78.2 million fund.”

Funding came from the Right, the Left, and everywhere in between.

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/09/13/317594/timeline-bush-administration-solyndra-loan-guarantee/

At about the same time Solyndra began, the Bush Administration’s Energy Policy Act of 2005 was initiated. Section 1703 seemed an ideal match for a company like Solyndra as follows: “Section 1703 of Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorizes the U.S. Department of Energy to support innovative clean energy technologies that are typically unable to obtain conventional private financing due to high technology risks.” https://lpo.energy.gov/?page_id=39. The emphasis here is on the word “risk.”

In 2006, Solyndra applied for a DOE loan under Section 1703. Late 2007 the loan program was funded and Solyndra was on the list for a loan. According to Energy Sec’y Sam Bodman at that time: “The Energy Department had received 143 pre-applications for the guarantees and narrowed the list down to 16 finalists — including Solyndra.” Why was Solyndra mentioned that way, as if singled out? According to WashingtonMonthly.com, “Bush’s Energy Department apparently adjusted its regulations to make sure that Solyndra would be eligible for the guarantees. It hadn’t originally contemplated including the photovoltaic-panel manufacturing that Solyndra did but changed the regulation before it was finalized. The only project that benefited was Solyndra’s.” Hmmm—heavy Republican investors or what? The Bush Administration, as I often blogged about back then, was not exactly green by any stretch of the word. However, it was late 2007 and 2008 meant a new presidential race. Being able to tout investment in alternative energy might appeal to some independent voters. Whatever the case, this loan program and its admittance of Solyndra on the list was a decision made during the Bush Administration.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal/2011_09/solyndras_republican_paternity032460.php

By 2008, Solyndra planned on building 2 new facilities in the U.S., and private investment in Solyndra reached an accumulated $450 million. It still looked like a great venture. Prices for silicon remained high and Solyndra’s costs were still competitive. But by late 2008, the loan still hadn’t been approved. According to themoderatevoice.com:

January 2009: In an effort to show it has done something to support renewable energy, the Bush Administration tries to take Solyndra before a DOE credit review committee before President Obama is inaugurated. The committee, consisting of career civil servants with financial expertise, remands the loan back to DOE “without prejudice” because it wasn’t ready for conditional commitment.

March 2009: The same credit committee approves the strengthened loan application. The deal passes on to DOE’s credit review board. Career staff (not political appointees) within the DOE issue a conditional commitment setting out terms for a guarantee.

Once taxpayer money was involved, the Obama administration was reluctant to let Solyndra fail.

http://themoderatevoice.com/122532/solyndra-and-bush/

Cleantechnica.com reported:

June 2009: As more silicon production facilities come online while demand for PV (photovoltaics) wavers due to the economic slowdown, silicon prices start to drop. Meanwhile, the Chinese begin rapidly scaling domestic manufacturing and set a path toward dramatic, unforeseen cost reductions in PV. Between June of 2009 and August of 2011, PV (photovoltaic) prices drop more than 50%.

http://cleantechnica.com/2011/09/15/solyndra-advanced-by-bush-for-2-years-solyndra-timeline/

Some reports suggested that President Obama was warned several times via email that the deal was risky. On the contrary, Media Matters stated:

There was no email to Obama that the deal wasn’t ready for prime time relative to financial risk. Instead Email Concerned Timing Of Announcement, Not The Merit Of The Loan Guarantee.[] The email argued that ‘This deal is NOT ready for prime time’ because there were more steps to be completed before the loan guarantee could be finalized — namely, OMB had to review the credit rating and Solyndra needed to raise an additional $200 million in private capital. [House Energy and Commerce Republicans,9/14/11]

The merit of the loan guarantee lies with the OMB or Office of Management and Budget.

  • OMB reviews and must approve credit subsidy cost estimates for all loan and loan guarantee programs, including the credit subsidy cost estimates generated by DOE for the Title XVII program, to ensure that costs are accounted for appropriately.
  • OMB assesses cost estimates on a loan-by-loan basis because the Title XVII program provides relatively large-dollar guarantees and because their characteristics, terms, and risks vary greatly from project to project.
  • OMB delegates the modeling of credit subsidy costs to agencies, and issues implementing guidance to ensure consistent and accurate estimates of cost.
  • OMB works closely with agencies to create or revise credit subsidy models for new programs or programs issuing their first loans or loan guarantees, such as the Title XVII program in 2009,
  • Based on these models, OMB reviews and exercises final approval authority over credit subsidy costs to ensure that the costs of direct loans and loan guarantees are presented, and reflect estimated risks, consistently across Federal agencies so that taxpayer funds are invested in a prudent and effective fashion.
  • The final decision on whether to issue the loan or guarantee rests with the agency implementing the applicable program – DOE in the case of Title XVII.

http://mediamatters.org/research/201109190020.

By September 2009 Solyndra raised the money, an additional $219 million dollars and the $535 million loan from the DOE went through. Around one billion dollars had been invested in Solyndra, the bigger portion coming from the private investment sector. The Walton’s (the Wal-Mart family) Madrone Capital Partners and the Kaiser Foundation’s Argonaut Venture Capital, the Right and Left money respectively, being the biggest investors.

At this point, early 2010, China trumped everyone in the solar game “dump[ing] $30 billion into its solar industry. That is a lot of money for infrastructure as well as research and development. There is little doubt that the companies making solar panels in China benefited from the money.” http://www.solarcompanies.com/news/china-and-united-states-to-enter-trade-war-on-solar-panels

However, China did so in violation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which prohibits government subsidies for corporations/businesses that plan to export. To do so allows that country to possibly corner the worldwide market in any segment, which China has done with solar panels. The thinking goes this way. A corporation is limited in growth if all its goods and services remain in the country. In the U.S., a corporation is limited by the fact that we only have 300 million people and consumers are only going to buy so many goods/services over a period of time. But if that same corporation decides to export—the sky is the limit. So for any government to heavily subsidize a corporation that also plans to export, tips the playing field badly on competition that can’t possibly keep up. Since China has over 3 times our population the playing field is already tipped to say the least. The $30 billion dollar Chinese “illegal” dump into the solar industry was a death knell for Solyndra. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/09/business/global/09trade.html?pagewanted=all

It’s not unforeseen or unusual that from December 2010 through February 2011, the two largest private investors, DOE, and Solyndra “negotiated the terms and conditions of an agreement to restructure the Solyndra loan guarantee. Throughout this process, DOE consulted with OMB about the proposed terms and conditions of this arrangement.” NY Times: Experts Said DOE’s Decision To Restructure “Is Routine In The Commercial World.” From a September 16, New York Times article

By the end of February 2011,

  • Both Argonaut and Madrone added a combined $69 million in emergency funds to Solyndra.
  • DOE agreed to extend the term of Solyndra’s loan guarantee from seven to 10 years, and to postpone the first repayment installment by one year, from 2012 to 2013.
  • In addition, the agreement provided that, in the event of the company’s liquidation before 2013, the investors have the senior secured position with respect to the first $75 million recovered. In this case, it is not the full $75 million but rather the $69 million in emergency funds as stated, “The two firms gave the company a total of $69 million in emergency loans. The loans are the only portion of their investments that have repayment priority above the U.S. government. [Associated Press,9/16/11].
  • DOE has the second senior secured position with respect to the next $150 million recovered in liquidation. This is taxpayer money
  • If Solyndra had not liquidated or declared bankruptcy by 2013, the investors would have lost their senior secured position to DOE. [House Energy and Commerce Committee, 9/12/11]

Media Matters further stated that the decision to fund Solyndra, which in turn built brand new state of the art facilities, is in much better shape to garner more when they liquidate. “DOE determined, as part of the restructuring, that the facility would be more valuable, even in the event of a future liquidation, once complete.” He went on to say that “DOE determined that restructuring the loan guarantee gave the U.S. taxpayer the best chance of being repaid”

http://mediamatters.org/research/201109190020

So there you have it. Advanced solar technology like Solyndra had a foothold in the industry when it began 7 years ago, but failed during the slow, slow process of funding during which time a giant like China decided to dump an “unforeseen” 30 billion into the solar panel industry in a very short time. Did they know about Solyndra? China’s panels are ho hum standard cheap, nowhere near the innovation of Solyndra. It’s a shame we have segments of our population that scream about government helping new industry get a start when our competition does it all the time. It’s not socialism by any stretch, especially when it’s about energy and infrastructure. It’s investment in the U.S. future if we’re going to compete with the likes of China, India, Russia, or Brazil—the top 4 economic powers now. Government certainly needs to rethink  trade agreements too now that we know how China plans to play the game.

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Weather Wake Up Call for U.S. as Congress Keeps Pushing for More Fossil Fuel Energy

I know I’m not the only one linking greenhouse gas emissions to global climate change to all the horrendously bad weather pummeling the U.S. lately. The east coast is still without power from Hurricane Irene. A new hurricane Katia is churning up in the Atlantic along with a new tropical storm promising to drop a huge amount of rainfall on New Orleans again missing Texas for relief from the record drought there.

At the same time, it’s been a busy 24 hours for earthquake activity in the U.S. In the late morning hours today, 3 earthquakes hit Alaska’s Aleutian Island area. One was 6.8 that triggered a tsunami warning for the U.S. western coastline between 7:30 and 8:00 am while another 4.2 earthquake shook the Los Angeles area yesterday at 1:47 in the afternoon. If we look at the world map for earthquakes there was substantial seismic activity from the southern hemisphere along Australia north to the ring of fire areas of the Indian Ocean arcing around the pacific basin up to Alaska.

Worldwide earthquakes with M4.5+ located by USGS and Contributing Agencies.
(Earthquakes with M2.5+ within the United States and adjacent areas.)

If all of this challenging weather isn’t a wake up call to get moving on sustainable alternatives, then our reps in Congress and some presidential candidates pushing the filthy tar sands project that will ultimately burn 6X dirtier than usual and hawking our substantial caches of coal are representing Big Oil/Gas/Coal and not our health and welfare.

There is no denying the entire world is suffering from increasingly greater extremes of weather with summers at record highs and winters with increasing precipitation in the form of snow in places like Florida. But politics, at least in the U.S. continues to polarize viewpoints about global climate on behalf of Big Energy Industries, using jobs vs. environment as a ploy to divide U.S. citizens once again. Divide and conquer is not just a saying—it works. Because while were fighting/arguing climate change points with each other, congress is passing anti-environmental laws right under our noses. These laws are a direct affront to our clean air, water, and the EPA that is in place for our safety and welfare and have less to do with jobs than deregulation. Think about it. Jobs can be created in many industries. New jobs in new industries would be nice expanding all sorts of related jobs in engineering, science, and the technical fields for a new generation looking to the future not fearing it. On the other hand, once Mother Nature turns on us that’s it.

Are we absolutely positive human activity is not affecting climate change because I’m seeing videos of huge cesspools of plastic gyres growing in size in our oceans? Just because we can’t see pollution is no assurance it’s not there.

So as Mother Nature bears down on our east coast, the gulf, and rumbles the west coast to Alaska, maybe we should forget politics entangled with enormous lobbyist activity from the wealthiest of industries Big Oil/Gas/Coal. Maybe we should use some good ole street smarts believing what we see and experience because what we’re experiencing is advancing global climate change whether it’s politically correct to believe it or not.

To those that continue to follow a political line concerning global climate change that diss the idea that man’s pollution is a catalyst for the horrendous weather we’re experiencing, than why not apply the same 1% principle as we did to enter a war with Iraq that half our citizens never wanted. Former VP Cheney’s one percent principle as applied to global climate change would read like this:

If there is even a 1% chance that human activity such as greenhouse gas emissions is causing accelerated global climate change, then it is our duty to do all that we can to stop that activity for the welfare of mankind everywhere.

There is little argument against this principle because while deniers claim science can’t prove greenhouse gas emissions cause climate change, deniers can’t prove those greenhouse gas emission aren’t causing a problem either. This principle covers the bases. If was good enough for the U.S. to wage war in a country that had nothing to do with the U.S. terrorist attacks or WMD’s, than it’s good enough to save citizens of this country from the devastation Mother Nature can cause that can far exceed any war. Because while we were battered with fear tactics for almost a decade regarding terrorism, no one has stepped forward to churn the same fear for the wrath of Mother Nature when we can clearly see that she is indeed our greatest threat. Attacks by her are happening along our coastlines all at once right now and fewer dollars to recover from it. There may be more, increasingly worse weather if we fail to act.

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/

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Lake Erie Wind Farm Coming Soon

According to an article on inhabitat.com:

Lake Erie is about to join Cape Cod in hosting one of the first offshore wind farms in the United States. For a while now, plans have been underway to construct a wind power site on the Great Lakes after a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between GE Energy and the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation. Then earlier this month Ohio Governor Ted Strickland announced that there were plans for the development of five wind turbines on Lake Erie to generate 20 megawatts of power by 2012, with additional turbines to generate 1,000 megawatts by 2020.

It may not be much as far as freshwater farms, but it’s a start. Most of the problem has been citizen’s complaints that the turbines will ruin the view and/or tourism, which doesn’t appear to be true. As a matter of fact, one of the most beautiful places I can think of is Oahu, Hawaii’s north shore. On a point where the road turns from the northern end of the island and heads down the east coast is a bluff that boasts wind turbines. They’ve been there for years. I find it to be a serene sight. Wind turbines represent our willingness to help the planet. Something about this picture in Timon Singh’s article about Lake Erie’s wind farm represents that serenity.

http://www.awea.org/faq/wwt_environment.html#Will wind energy hurt tourism in my area.

Like anything new naysayers have warned that whole economic sectors will collapse if we change too quickly. I read an interesting article about that. It went back to other inventions that were touted to be the ruination of huge industries. Those predictions never panned out, and as a matter of fact, the industries that were supposed to go under not only benefited but adopted the new changes in a big way. One example: seat belts. According to the article when seat belts were first considered, naysayers claimed it would ruin the auto industry:

Does anyone remember their bitter lamentations over automobile seat belts? If the auto industry was to be believed, passage of regulations requiring seat belts would prompt Americans to become a nation of lawbreakers and to abandon their cars, collapsing the auto industry. Twenty-six states passed mandatory laws, seat belts save an estimated 15,000 lives a year, and the auto industry now runs ads promoting its safety equipment, having found — gasp! — that consumers want more safety.

The same goes for naysayers relative to energy progress. We hand out $36 billion in subsidies to the oil industry to drill, and one wind energy project in California gets 1.2 billion this year. And it will be the largest in the U.S. Who thinks that’s fair, especially when big oil is going to drill anyway?

Even though wind power funding lags behind and wind power has slowly progressed, wind turbines have already improved. Gearboxes have been replaced by magnets, making the turbines much lighter and improving efficiency. They turn more easily in much lower winds. We really do need new innovation to reduce the size of wind turbines. Like many environmentally minded people, I see there is a finite end to just how many of these large turbines we can actually erect across the country. There simply isn’t enough land. But, I’ve reminded readers that until we actually unleash new alternatives we simply will not advance quickly to smaller, more efficient, and cheaper alternatives. Think digital watches, portable radios, laptaps. The precursors to all of these products were huge and/or expensive and/or unreliable.

I know. I worked on keypunch machines before the computer terminal. Looking back that was so archaic. Then I worked on a computer terminal in 1974 in U of M’s personnel dept. That system would dump everything we did the prior week for whatever reason. We would walk in on Monday morning with the bad news all had to be input again. It was so unreliable that we continued to type 4-5 carbon copies AND input the same info into the system on a daily basis. The main frame for that system took up an entire room. I marvel the way our cell phones have morphed into the pc’s of the future. To think we will hurt the U.S. economy with more opportunities in that economy is convoluted thinking. Competition is supposed to be the back bone of the free market, if there is a free market when it comes to energy.

Read more:

About Lake Erie’s Wind Farm

http://inhabitat.com/2010/07/06/lake-erie-to-become-the-united-states-first-fresh-water-wind-farm/.

About Doomsayers and New Innovation:

http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2009/05/29/dont-believe-climate-bill-doomsayers#ixzz0ut6eLNpz.

About Improved Wind Turbines

http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/25188/.

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Like Michigan, the Gulf, WV, and Other States Need to Expand a Limited Economic Base and Now is the Right Time

Everyone in Michigan is well aware how painstaking it’s been to diversify our economy after decades of mainly relying on the U.S. auto industry as an economic base. We had to literally be pushed to diversify. The auto industry crash was the incentive. Now we’re slowly moving toward more movie making ventures, environmental endeavors, and hopefully will be able to provide years of jobs with a future update for Detroit that will provide even more growing space in the future for new businesses and even more jobs. Michigan should be a model for those states that also seem to be mired in the muck of a very limited economic base like the gulf states and West Virginia. It’s never been more evident that these states are also one or two horse towns relative to industry, namely fishing and working for Big Oil. West Virginia citizens are pretty much reliant on the coal industry as an economic base, an industry that has WV citizens at their mercy. But more on that in a future blog.

I read an interesting article that throughout this whole gulf oil disaster of sad, sickening news with polluted water/beaches, the death of wildlife, and the death of an economy there is a silver lining. The article on infrastructurist.com reported that the oil spill disaster could be just the incentive needed to move the economy of the gulf in a new direction and quickly. It said that it’s perfect timing to improve the crumbling infrastructure of those southern states. Instead of BP just paying people to be idle, the funds could be used to start rebuilding that infrastructure and give people jobs to go to instead of the handouts. Remember the adage, “Give a man a fish…” There’s something to be said about the dignity of having a job. It’s certainly a better feeling than having to take money to survive from the very people that caused the problem. The article briefly looks at the psychology of this sudden joblessness.

Although many will argue that it’s only short-term employment, I have to say all construction jobs are finite by nature anyway. I might argue that the oil industry is a finite business as well. We will eventually run out. And so it goes for building refineries, coalburners, etc. They are all construction jobs and short term. Once those are up, the amount of people employed in the occupation of polluting is paltry.

Taking this opportunity to expand the economy down there should be a no brainer. The article also stated: “Ever since the devastation of Katrina, the Gulf Coast’s infrastructure has been in very rough shape. Improving it was one of Obama’s key policy objectives during the 2008 election. And the virtual elimination of fishing and other industries has left a displaced labor force that could be put to work on some of the much-needed infrastructure improvements — a program for which BP could foot the bill.” There you have it. Oh and don’t worry. Our food palates won’t languish from the loss of seafood from the gulf. Only 2% of all the seafood we eat specifically comes from there.

Of course I read some of the comments after that article and had to answer. The commenter said: “I don’t see how fishermen, roughnecks and petroleum engineers can just become heavy equipment operators and engineers for Bechtel.”

My answer:

Roughnecks? I spent 20 years as a construction secretary. Updating infrastructure from underground cables to towers to fiber optic lines to water drains, mains, pipelines, shoals, dykes, berms, etc., requires a variety of job disciplines. And not all projects will be awarded to Bechtel. Even if they are only awarded to large corps. the amount of jobs created is phenomenal.

I live in a small town in Michigan and when the Fermi II Nuke was being built, everyone worked there. I worked there. My friends, and half the town in some capacity worked there. We swarmed the bars/eateries during lunch and after work. People spent money everywhere. Anyone who has ever experienced a large construction project in his or her area, even though temporary, knows that the economy just swells in that area. And if BP is buying, why the heck shouldn’t the gulf area take advantage of it. It’s a no brainer.

And long term, some of the younger guys who were destined to become a fisherman, or an oil rig worker or the like might become interested in other trades and branch out. At very least they will be given an alternative to choose. It’s a shame that coalminers in WV in their early 20′s are relegated to getting black lung and meet an early death because that’s what their father, grandfather, brother, in-laws, and cousins did. It isn’t that they don’t know their fate. They have to accept it because there is little economic diversity, no alternatives. Surely West Virginia would benefit from an infrastructure update too, quite possibly paid for by Massey Industries for some sort of restitution for 29 lost lives–something everyone will agree is priceless.

I say the people in these regions be allowed to hear the opportunities/alternatives that may be available for them and let them decide. Americans workers still believe they are the backbone of the country and would like to feel that their contribution to the work force accomplishes much for their country.

There is no reason that two extremely wealthy industries that have done a great injustice to the American people by sticking to the bottom line only, profit before human lives, can’t afford restitution in the form of funding for rebuilding the infrastructure without passing anything down to us in the form of higher prices for goods. That is something the American people need to take a stand on because after all our taxpayer dollars subsidize the oil industry for drilling to a tune of $36 billion annually, while Big Coal garners some 3 billion dollars annually in subsidies from us. Something that should be stopped altogether.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/business/04bptax.html.

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/02/subsidizing_cli.php

The way I see it, the oil industry has been double dipping us for years taking our tax money in subsidies and raising prices immediately on us if they have to pay a dime more for production costs, which are offset by our subsidies! And coal, it’s supposed to be “cheap and abundant” but my electric bill never reflects that same cheap abundance. The energy tax commercials boast the threat I’m talking about, “Tax us and you’ll pay” and the Americans depicted in them seem to accept that fate saying: “We (the people) just can’t afford a tax on big energy companies right now.” What kind of defeatism is that? It certainly isn’t a free market system when we simply accept our fate at their hands because there is no alternative.

http://www.infrastructurist.com/2010/06/23/could-the-bp-disaster-be-a-goodish-thing-for-the-gulfs-infrastructure/comment-page-1/#comment-24091.

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Germany Sets Goal High; 100% Renewable Energy for Electricity by 2050

Remember when I wrote about the incentives the German government offered to its citizens to get solar panels? It was such a success that people in apartments wanted to know how they could get in on the deal. Plus the government itself lined the autobahn highway with miles of solar panels too. This effort by Germany paved the way for their latest push to power all their electricity needs with alternative energy by 2050. That may sound far away, but hey we’re going into double digits in the 21st century already.

http://www.blogsmonroe.com/world/2007/10/germany-jump-starts-alternative-energy-push/.

An article on guardian.co.uk stated:

Thanks to its Renewable Energy Act, Germany is the world leader in photovoltaics: it expects to add more than 5,000 megawatts of photovoltaic capacity this year to reach a total of 14,000 megawatts. It is also the second-biggest wind-power producer after the United States. Some 300,000 RENEWABLE ENERGY JOBS have been created in Germany in the last decade.

The government has set goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40% between 1990 and 2020, and by 80-85% by 2050. That goal could be achieved if Germany switches completely to renewable sources by 2050, Flasbarth said.

About 40% of Germany’s greenhouse gases come from electricity production, in particular, from coal-fired power plants.

Flasbarth said the Environment Agency’s study found that SWITCHING TO GREEN ELECTRICITY by 2050 WOULD HAVE ECONOMIC ADVANTAGES, especially for the vital export-oriented manufacturing industry. It would also create tens of thousands of jobs.

Well so much for the free market system here that is supposed to spur innovation and progress and create jobs ey? It’s not a theory anymore that new ways of doing things can indeed create more jobs while being good for the environment. Germany is actually doing it.
Read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/07/germany-renewable-energy-electricity.

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Detroit, the Great American Experiment

I don’t know if anyone else caught a segment about Detroit on ABC News World News Tonight the end of last week. I caught it. It was short and fast, but yet I was excited by the quick glimpse of what I did see. It was about plans to clear the blight and rebuild Detroit. So I dug around more and found an article on money.cnn.com about plans in the making for Detroit that’s being called the Great American Experiment and that it beats anything going on anywhere else in the country. It would include 1200 new businesses collectively.

Everyone in Michigan probably knows by now that there are plans to tear down the empty buildings in Detroit beginning with vacant homes. That’s quite a feat because Detroit in square miles is huge compared to its population, (900,000 down from 2 million at one time). Detroit is so big San Francisco, Boston, and Manhattan could fit inside of it. Once they are gone the amount of empty acreage provides an unusual oppotunity for Detroit with endless possibilites, one of which is to become the country’s greenest city.

Watch the video.

The article on money.cnn.com went on to talk about some of the plans for Detroit and all that bare acreage, “Detroit is particularly well suited to become a pioneer in urban agriculture at a commercial scale.” That’s where a businessman named John Hantz comes in. He has plans for Detroit that would include pods of farms around the city complete with lakes, 7 lakes. This isn’t your grandpa’s farm either. The urban farm would be the latest technology with the help of Michigan State University, and a futuristic wonder to behold. There would be nothing like it in the world. The local farms would provide clean jobs, and fresh produce to local markets and restaurants in a city currently devoid of decent super markets of any type. Imagine the restaurants that would accumulate around those lakes drawing more and more business and entertainment. People would be drawn to see it:

Detroit, the Great American Experiment

http://money.cnn.com/2009/12/29/news/economy/farming_detroit.
fortune/index.htm
.

I believe Detroit will have its urban farming at some level, since there are already around 900 small gardens, (1/4 acre), strewn about. We know the will is there. To the extent Hantz wants to do it—we’ll see. Detroit demographer Kurt Metzger sees small communities connected by bike and walking paths with parks along the way. Detroit has a habit of getting embroiled in arguments whenever big developments are in the plans.

In any event there will be plenty of land to develop in the near future as progress to tear down 3,000 decrepit homes is set to start soon. Watch the whole ABC news segment about Detroit.

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Nuclear Power Getting a Second Start

Nuclear power is getting a second start in the U.S. with president Obama’s recent thumbs up for 2 nuke plants in Georgia. The president will roll out the first nuclear plant loan guarantee next week. From what I read, the article stated Southern Company/Georgia Power is building the 2 new plants right on the Plant Vogtle site in Georgia.
http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/677-e2-wire/80993-obama-to-roll-out-first-nuclear-plant-loan-guarantees-.

Stephen Smith, head of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy says that everyone is concerned with what to do with the nuclear waste, that there is currently no national repository for it. Smith also said that nuclear power plants are extremely expensive to build and the same amount of money, (in the billions), could be used for conservation programs, to build greener buildings, wind production, and to take advantage of the biomass opportunities in GA. The head of Georgia Power is all for renewable energy, especially the biomass market, and responded on CNN that he agreed with Stephen Smith.

My greatest concern is about the radioactive waste too. Waste has always been the biggest drawback to nuke plants. But like I said about the Fermi project, the property is already purchased and radioactive waste is already present, likewise for Plant Vogtle. Georgia Power is simply using the same site for newer facilities. Besides, in the past few decades since any reactors were built in the U.S., science has been working frantically to come up with ways to either disable radioactive material and/or shorten the time for radioactive material to dissipate from millions of years to only hundreds of years.

Here are links to some viable possibilities for limiting radioactive waste produced by nuke plants. There is so much coming out of India these days, I can’t begin to tell you. I’m not surprised that a team of German and Indian scientists have come up with a polymer that absorbs cobalt, so it reduces the amount of radioactive waste produced during routine operation of nuclear reactors. When I read about this I thought of the gel like beads that absorb excess water for release later. This process won’t disable radioactive waste but it will decrease the amount we have to dispose of.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090511090842.htm.

There is also a process that may increase the deactivation time for radioactive waste from millions of years to 300-500 years. While this still seems like a lot of time, it’s a start and sounds like something we really need to get moving on if we’re going to start building nukes again.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080922100148.htm.

Here is a government website that lists all the methods to deal with radioactive waste. We may as well get informed, because nuclear is happening.

http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/factsheets/doeymp0017.shtml.

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The Campaign to Stall Global Warming Policy

I’ve been saying for a while to look for the money motivation behind skeptic’s opinions regarding global warming and a current article in Rolling Stone by Jeff Goodell, titled: “: “As the World Burns,” documents an outright campaign to distort, create a chasm, and stall progress for a greener economy and jobs, jobs, jobs in America. Who would do that? No one stands to gain on the path we appear to be taking more than big oil and coal. We should have done a real heads up and kept them up when Exxon Mobil earned 40.1 billion dollars NET in ONE quarter while we paid high dollar at the pumps. They’re using it to stall everything. The world should wait while they get one last good year in. Then it will be another good year, and another…All the wealth in the country belongs to 1% of the citizenry. That should tell us something.

The cover of the same magazine was quite blunt in trying to tell readers something about the forces preventing progress in the U.S. It was titled in big red letters: “You Idiots! Meet the Planet’s Worst Enemies.” It’s simply white hat, black hat here. Say for instance, I’m a billion dollar corp., and I see that the worldwide competition and sentiment is moving toward cleaning up our acts relative to global warming. I remember Cheney’s 1% doctrine too. It was good enough to reason a war in Iraq. In the context of global warming the 1% doctrine dictates that if there is a 1% chance that we are exacerbating global warming, then we have the duty to combat the source. I see brand new innovation for fuels that looks promising like algae, methane, recycled grease, etc., and I’m reminded that America has always been a leader in innovation. We nurture that type of progress here. As this corporation I have great wealth, clout, and access to the technical ability to choose to:

A. Invest in new innovation while I’m still at the top of the game in the fossil fuel sector. By doing this I insure that I will always be a corporation associated with progress and prosperity well into the future, where I will probably advance and adapt over and over in step with newer technologies as they come up. I am still employing workers in the fossil fuel industry but am setting up programs for job transition in the future. Eventually, I phase out the polluting industry, and become totally vested in the new, and maintain my fortune while continuously providing jobs for old and new employees.

B. Use my money and clout to block progress not only to a cleaner way of life for the world, but also block the chance for all those young, eager, innovative minds to create. I would also block new jobs in a brand new green economy. Heaven forbid anyone finds out these jobs do indeed help boost the economy, and prices for alternatives begin to fall. I would continue to offer only those jobs in polluting industries that ravage the land, air, and water in my own country and eventually the world, as well as, expose workers to an unhealthy working environment. I might also affect the health of those that live in close proximity to my operations. In the end, the world moves forward and I am so far behind. But who cares, I’m still rich.

There you have it, black and white. We see what road corporations are choosing to take The very next article after “As the World Burns” is even better. It’s titled: “The Climate Killers,” and names the top 17 polluters/deniers “derailing efforts to curb global warming,” by Tim Dickinson.

After reading this, the question people should be asking themselves is, “What would have happened if the technology boom was continually stalled? What if there was a massive campaign by old school America to keep us on corded phones forever? All the Silicon Valley innovation, jobs, and even the stock market associated with it would never have been realized. We could use another immediate surge like that in the U.S., and it’s got green written all over it.

Take the time to read the articles. They are important, as the U.S. seems to become ever more increasingly ruled by corporate America

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/31633532/as_the_world_burns.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/31633524/the_climate_killers.

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Powerful Investors Demand Climate Change Action Immediately

Today, a group of U.S., European, and Australian investors who “represent $13 trillion in assets, called for “a price on carbon emissions” and “well-designed carbon markets” to provide “a cost-effective way of achieving emissions reductions,” according to an article on ENS.

They cited the fact that “some 85 percent of the financial resources needed to cope with climate challenges must come from private sources. In effect, the battle over climate change will be won – or lost – in the hands of private investors.” But they also recanted that no one will put a foot forward without governments playing a role. Policies create a stable investment environment. Only policy can make clean energy cost-competitive with fossil fuel.

The investors claim they and others like them are ready to stoke clean energy investments if governments begin to implement strong policies and quickly. It seems they are encouraged by the fact that China, India, and the U.S. came to a verbal agreement in Copenhagen, but they want more and now. What is needed most from national and state legislatures is “transparency, longevity and certainty.” That would be a strong RPS as far as the states are concerned. Michigan doesn’t have one as yet thanks to our Republican Senate who trashed that effort at the last minute. It wasn’t even a strong RPS, but it was better than none at all.

These guys aren’t fooling around. As stated: “We underscore the importance of concluding a legally-binding agreement this year with comprehensive long-term measures for mitigation, forest protection, adaptation, finance, and technology transfer, including a global emission reduction target of 50-85% by 2050, consistent with estimates from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

They are investors after all and they estimate that transforming to clean energy is completely doable.

In their statement, the investors observed that the costs of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are “both affordable and significantly lower than the costs of inaction.” [] The UNFCCC Secretariat estimates that more than $200 billion in total additional investment capital for mitigation is required each year by 2030 just to return greenhouse gases to their current levels by then.

The International Energy Agency estimates that additional investment of $10.5 trillion is needed globally in just the energy sector from 2010-2030 to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at around 450 parts per million, the investors noted.

This equates to roughly 0.1% of the total value of world financial assets and approximately 0.23% of the total value of debt and equity securities, so this is certainly an achievable level of investment – and one that would yield returns in terms of energy savings, energy security, reduced capital expenditures for pollution control, and avoided climate damages, they said. But it is also well above current investment levels.

So there you have it. People with deep pockets other than OIL/COAL/LUMBER that want to go green “yesterday.”

Read the article: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jan2010/2010-01-14-01.html.

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Detroit Makes 5 Best Cities for Green Jobs List

I’ve been reading about green jobs and a growing green sector in Michigan but I never ran across a real tally of just how many jobs have been created within a given time span until I read that Detroit made, “The 5 Best Cities for Green Jobs” list per an article on the dailygreen.com.

Like the article said, Detroit seldom makes the top ten list of anything, but it seems that the Motor City and Michigan in general are slowly pulling ahead on the green front. I just didn’t know how well we are actually doing in Michigan. The article reports:

Michigan lost 3.6% of its jobs between 1998 and 2007, but clean jobs were a bright spot: Some 1,932 new clean businesses were started, offering 22,674 jobs. Some $55 million in venture capital was invested between 2006 and 2008. The state was 10th in the nation in adding new jobs in conservation and pollution mitigation in 2007.

It went on to say that the 22,000 plus “jobs numbers will jump impressively when the 2009 DOE funding puts spades in the ground.” Michigan is slated to receive a nice chunk in the form of green-tech grants from the federal DOE, which is meant to fund factories and create jobs for a “vast pool of skilled auto talent in the metropolitan area.” And the Ford Wixom Plant’s sale to Xtreme Power that makes power systems for wind and solar, and Clairvoyant Energy, a solar energy company, should result in even more green jobs all around.

It appears Governor Granholm’s vision of diversifying Michigan’s economy is coming to fruition. A little over a year ago in December 08, the governor signed legislation that helped Michigan’s No Worker Left Behind job retraining program that she initiated in 2007.

As of 2008, 31,000 Michiganders participated in the No Worker Left Behind program with 11,000 completing it. One of the companies to benefit greatly from the retraining program was Demmer Corporation that hired 1300 retrainees to its staff. Demmer creates and executes “world-class engineering and manufacturing solutions” in the defense, aerospace, and automotive industries,” according to its website.

If we hang tight, we can accomplish great things for Michigan. There is a link in the article for green jobs available in Michigan.

Read more: http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/best-cities-green-jobs-461209-2#ixzz0cLIh28Pe.

http://www.mlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2008/07/green_jobs_expand_michigan_wor.html.

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