Environment Forum

Federal purse reopens for solar science

 

The U.S. Department of Energy announced this week $60 million in funding for scientists to develop “revolutionary research” to lower the cost of solar power systems.

The DOE SunShot Initiative is baiting researchers to increase efficiency of commercial solar power (CSP) systems and lower costs to six cents per kilowatt hour by the end of the decade. 

The initiative is being called a “sign of the times for the sector“, and comes amidst accusations the government is squandering taxpayer money on businesses doomed to fail, best exemplified by recently bankrupt solar heavyweight Solyndra.

The DOE says the SunShot CSP grant is meant to look beyond short-term innovation and explore transformative concepts with the “potential to break through performance barriers like efficiency and temperature limitations,” the DOE announced. It wants scientists to think big.

With billions invested in multiple CSP plants throughout the southwestern states, improving CSP generation to the point where it can once again compete with cheaper solar photovoltaic panels appears to be an important priority for the DOE, writes Energy Matters.

Greens party soars to new heights in Germany

Germany’s Greens party are already the world’s most successful environmental party – having spent seven GERMANY GREENS/years in government of one of the world’s largest economies as junior coalition partners to the centre-left Social Democrats. The Greens wrote Germany’s renewable energy law that helped the country become a major player in wind and solar energy technology between 1998 and 2005 — and the party is chiefly responsible for raising the share of renewable energy to 16 percent of the country’s total electricity consumption.

Although in opposition since 2005, the Greens’ popularity has nevertheless soared to record levels over 20 percent in recent months and the party – which only recently celebrated its 30th anniversary – is doing so well in opinion polls that they could possibly end up heading coalitions in two state elections next year ahead of the SPD in Baden-Wuerttemberg and the city-state of Berlin. 

Pollsters say the Greens are benefitting from an increasing awareness in environmental issues, such as climate change and the public’s opposition to government plans to extend nuclear power in Germany beyond 2021. The Greens are also profiting from voter frustration over broken promises by the ruling parties.

Tire incineration is not renewable energy

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– Brian Schwartz and Cindy Parker are both physicians and faculty in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. They are also both Fellows of the Post Carbon Institute. The opinions expressed are solely their own. –

How do you solve a problem like David Miller?

According to the Chicago Tribune, he is the Illinois representative who last month, with little fanfare and notice at the time, attempted to modify legislation to include tire burning in the state’s definition of renewable energy.

The bill failed to pass initially but it isn’t dead yet – supporters may attempt to add it to another bill before the General Assembly adjourns.

Can the U.S. compete with China in the green economy?

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Fred Krupp is president of the Environmental Defense Fund. The views expressed are his own.

It’s as though three mammoth challenges facing America are intertwined like the strands of a rope: reducing our dependence on Mideast oil; creating new American jobs from clean energy; and reducing pollution responsible for climate change.

Together, those strands are a lifeline to the future.

While the House of Representatives passed comprehensive energy and climate legislation last summer, polarization has created gridlock in Washington, paralyzing most major legislative initiatives, including clean energy.

from The Great Debate:

Obama, politics and nuclear waste

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-Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own-

The project involved more than 2,500 scientists. It cost $ 10.5 billion between 1983 and 2009 and it included one of the most bizarre scientific tasks of all time: evaluate whether nuclear waste stored deep inside a Nevada desert mountain would be safe a million years into the future.

That was the safety standard set in September, 2008, by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a condition for allowing nuclear waste to be stored deep in the belly of the Yucca Mountain, 95 miles (155 km) from Las Vegas, long the subject of political debate and a fine example of nimbyism (not in my backyard).

The vastly complex computer models and simulations experts launched to figure out whether Yucca Mountain would be a safe environment in the year 1,000,000 and beyond ended before there was a scientific conclusion.

Climate bill treads on thin ice

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Supporters of a climate bill to cap and price greenhouse gases are losing hope that it will make it into law. But for many, the fight is far from over.

Topping the list of supporters of some form of the bill is President Obama. In his first State of the Union address, he focused on the bill’s potential to fuel a domestic clean tech industry lush with jobs, and said he still supported the bipartisan effort on the climate and energy bill, which would incorporate energy policies favored by Republicans.

(See also: Obama sticks to climate before divided Congress and Obama supports climate bill, but how clean will it be? )

from The Great Debate:

Senate retirements narrow cap-trade window

-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

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LONDON - Yesterday's announcement by Senator Byron Dorgan (Democrat, North Dakota) that he would not seek a fourth term in November, coupled with today's expected announcement by Senator Chris Dodd (Democrat, Connecticut) that he won't seek a sixth term, will remove two veterans, once secure legislators from the Democratic caucus.
It highlights the mounting problems confronting congressional Democrats facing voters in November's midterms amid high unemployment, a relatively unpopular agenda led by the administration, and concerns about the party's capture by special interests.

Dodd's retirement is not surprising, given his plummeting poll numbers and criticism for being too close to the banking and insurance industries he regulates as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee but which have been major campaign contributors.

Despite trying to reinvent himself as a populist in recent months, the legislation he has worked on has sometimes appeared to show too much favouritism for the industry. He has also run into criticism for receiving VIP mortgages in 2003 from Angelo Mozilo's failed Countrywide Financial.

Are the Copenhagen climate talks failing?

COP15picIn the last few days it has seemed like the only thing everyone can agree on in Copenhagen is that time is running out.

The heads of state start arriving today and descend in full force on Thursday.

Negotiators say they don’t want their leaders arguing over the placement of a comma or a set of brackets, and so everything needs to be tied up by Friday morning.

That leaves just over two days, and more than 190 countries gathered in the conference hall can’t even settle on a draft text to argue over.

Day Three: And what of Obama?

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President Barack Obama’s decision to attend the climate talks in Copenhagen next week, at the end of the process rather than at the beginning, is said to show the White House is serious about pursuing a deal to curb global warming.

On the first day of talks in Copenhagen this week, the Environmental Protection Agency cleared the way for regulation of greenhouse gases without new laws passed by Congress, a move said to enforce Obama’s commitment to act.

And on Tuesday, the top Chinese climate envoy told Reuters the U.S. needs to increase its commitment to emission cuts.

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