Global environmental challenges
from Tales from the Trail:
The great thing about presidential commissions is that they can soberly consider complicated matters and then offer unvarnished reports on what to do. The tough part is when that information rockets around Washington, as occurred after a White House commission issued its final report on the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
The "Deep Water" report, apparently titled in reference to the doomed BP Deepwater Horizon rig, blames the deadly blowout and oil spill on government and industry complacency, and recommends more regulation of offshore drilling and a new independent safety agency. But as my colleague Ayesha Rascoe reports, the commission lacks the authority to establish drilling policies or punish companies.
Within minutes of the report's release, and even as commission co-chair William Reilly was bragging about bringing the report in on time and under budget, interest groups started the PR barrage, with industry critical and environmental outfits largely complimentary. Two Democratic members of Congress said they'd introduce legislation to implement the commission's recommendations.
Will that legislation go anywhere? Industry analysts are doubtful. To get an idea of how much action can be prompted by White House panels, it's useful to take a look at two previous ones.
from Reuters Investigates:
Sarah McBride reports on brewing battles between environmentalists in her special report: "With solar power, it's Green vs. Green."
It turns out the perfect place to build a big solar plant is often also the perfect place for a tortoise or a fox to live. This means developers of large-scale solar plants are running into legal challenges from people who one would expect to be natural allies of alternative energy providers.
NTR’s Tessera Solar has sold its 663.5-megawatt Calico solar power project to K Road Power less than a week after utility Southern California Edison canceled a long-standing contract to buy electricity from the power plant that was to be built in the Mojave Desert.
Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
The deal is the latest twist for Calico, which nine weeks ago won approval from California and federal regulators after being put on a fast track so as to qualify for then-expiring tax incentives for renewable energy projects.
Traffic jams could start to get quieter in 2012 when Ford begins to install its Auto Start-Stop technology on gasoline-powered cars sold in North America.
The technology, currently used on hybrid Ford vehicles, cuts off the engine when a car is stopped at a traffic light and switches it back on when the driver’s foot leaves the brake pedal.
In a sign of the potential strength of the nascent electric truck market in the United States, the American division of the U.K.’s Smith Electric Vehicles has acquired its parent company.
Smith Electric Vehicles U.S. bought a majority ownership stake in its parent for $15 million from the Tanfield Group, a publicly traded company. Tanfield will retain a 49 percent ownership share of Smith.
Energy storage isn’t as sexy as solar projects that offer opportunities to cut ribbons on shiny futuristic technology. Nor does it attract the billions in federal loan guarantees and incentives awarded to wind farms and photovoltaic power plants.
But utilities and the government are increasingly recognizing that energy storage systems are crucial to integrating intermittent renewable energy projects into the smart grid.
Days after solar cell maker SpectraWatt notified New York authorities that it will shut down its seven-month-old factory and lay off 117 employees, China’s Trina Solar announced Monday that it will invest $800 million in new manufacturing plants over the next three years.
The move by Trina underscores just how difficult it has become for solar startups in the United States to compete against the massive investment being poured into Chinese photovoltaic module makers.
NTR’s Tessera Solar has suffered a major setback with the loss of a 663.5-megawatt power purchase agreement with utility Southern California Edison for its Calico solar power plant project.
The abrupt cancellation of the five-year-old contract comes just eight weeks after California and federal officials approved Calico, which they put on a fast track so Tessera could qualify for lucrative government incentives for large-scale renewable energy projects.
As competition with low-cost Chinese photovoltaic module makers intensifies, SpectraWatt, a solar startup spun out of Intel, has notified New York officials that it will shut down its factory in March and lay off 117 workers, according to a filing with the state’s Department of Labor.
The closure of the East Fishkill, N.Y., plant comes seven months after it opened and less than three years after SpectraWatt launched with a $50 million investment lead by Intel Capital, the chip giant’s investing arm. Other investors included Goldman Sachs, PCG Clean Energy and Technology Fund and German solar company Solon. Most of those investors also backed a $41.4 million round of funding for SpectraWatt announced in March.
The United States Energy Information Agency has released its preliminary forecast for the nation’s energy market in 2035 and it paints a picture of rising greenhouse gas emissions and an economy locked into a dependence on fossil fuels.
In a scenario sure to give nightmares to those concerned about climate change, the agency predicts that coal will supply 43 percent of the U.S.’s electricity demand in 2035, down just two percent from 2009. Natural gas’s share of the market rises slightly to 25 percent while nuclear provides 17 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2035, down from 20 percent today. Renewable energy production rises from 10 percent to 14 percent.