Global environmental challenges
Unfairly or not, any discussion of the Republican party’s environmental record by clean energy advocates often includes a mention of the White House solar panels ditched under Ronald Reagan. Green-minded members of the Grand Old Party, on the other hand, would rather point to the birth of the Environmental Protection Agency under Richard Nixon. Either way, in what’s clearly a sign of the times, renewables featured high on the minds of three former GOP secretaries of state who popped up at various energy conferences in the San Francisco Bay Area this past week (One can only assume the timing was a coincidence).
George Schultz, who served under Reagan, probably surprised at least a few people when he counted himself as among those EV1 owners still regretting GM’s controversial scrapping of the electric car earlier this decade. A Stanford professor and Hoover Institution fellow for the past two decades, Schultz had enjoyed driving it around campus. “I could even drive it up to San Francisco. I couldn’t go too many other places, but it’s a very useful car,” he said. “I was sorry to see that car taken off the market, it worked just fine.” Speaking at a meeting of energy economists last week alongside Chevron’s David O’Reilly, Schultz went on to join the oil company CEO in endorsing a carbon tax as more efficient than the cap-and-trade system favored by Congress.
On Monday, Condoleezza Rice also favored a carbon tax when she addressed the Silicon Valley Energy Summit at Stanford, where she too is a professor and Hoover fellow, while stressing the importance of not picking winners in the push for greener energy. “At this stage, we need to have an open field for all renewable alternatives to change the energy mix,” she said.
Just down the road in Palo Alto the next day, the secretary of state under George Bush Sr., James Baker, ranked climate change alongside nuclear proliferation, the economy and wars as a leading global threat. “I’m not going to talk about the science of it, ’cause I don’t understand it,” he told a meeting on clean energy arranged by law firm Baker Botts. Yet he felt, as an outdoorsman, that good stewardship of the planet was vital, even if he saw the current climate change bill in Congress as flawed. He suggested it should be passed, but left unsigned by the president until big developing countries like China and India made similar moves against carbon, holding the bill back as a bargaining chip. “That’s Negotiation 101,” he later told Reuters.
A “gold-rush-like” buzz has spread across Germany in the last week over tentative plans to invest the staggering sum of 400 billion euros to harvest solar power in the Sahara for energy users across Europe and northern Africa. Even though European and Mediterranean Union leaders have been exploring and studying for several years the idea of using concentrated solar power (CSP), the Desertec proposition suddenly captivated the public’s attention a week ago when German reinsurer Munich Re announced it had invited blue chip German companies such as Deutsche Bank, Siemens and several major utilities to a July 13 meeting on the project. The 20 companies aim to sign a memorandum of understanding to found the Desertec Industrial Initiative that could be supplying 15 percent of Europe’s electricity in the decades ahead.
Germany’s deputy foreign minister, Guenter Gloser, has been the government’s point man for the project. I had the chance to talk to him about it.
It will cost California some $115 billion for (pretty much) hitting 33 percent renewable energy by 2020. That’s more than twice the price tag of sticking with a goal of 20 percent. The difference, according to a long-delayed report issued today by the state’s Public Utilities Commission is due to the speed of building fast. There are all sorts of other problems outlined in exquisite detail. It’s all quite handy for those trying to get a sense of just what needs to be done to go green. A lot, it seems.
When Kennedy announced the moon shot, was there this type of gnashing of teeth? Maybe no one ran the numbers ahead of time!
Google Green Energy Czar (real title) Bill Weihl sat down with Reuters to talk about Renewable Energy Less Than Coal – the company’s plan to make affordable clean energy. Google started off trying to green up its own computer operations and then launched this save-the-world effort, which includes some investment in renewable energy startups and the work by a Google team.
Weihl describes that work in the video below, saying that the chances of successfully creating clean energy at less than coal prices – or about 3 cents per kilowatt — had risen from long shot to roughly even odds in about three years’ time.
This past weekend, a wind turbine spinning out of control forced California police to shut down a stretch of highway because of concerns that it could break into large, heavy, and very fast-moving pieces.
There is no doubt that Californians made themselves clear on Thursday when they gathered to tell U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar that they had had enough of offshore oil drilling and were ready to turn their attention to solar, wind and other renewables.
“I think the verdict today is very clear, that drilling is inappropriate,” said Leah Zimmerman, who attended the meeting dressed in a polar bear suit.
California utility PG&E and solar power company Solaren say they have inked a first-of-its-kind deal to produce renewable solar power from space satellites beginning in the year 2016.
PG&E, one of the largest electric utilities in the United Sates, says on its in-house blog, Next100, that it is seeking approval from state regulators for a power purchase agreement with Solaren, which it says can provide 200 megawatts of clean, renewable energy — enough to power some 140,000 California homes — over a 15 year period.
President Obama has promised to help create millions of new green jobs, saying that doing so will spur the U.S. economy toward recovery — and has held out Spain as having “surged ahead” of the rest of the world by investing in renewable energy.
But a new study of Spain’s renewable energy initiatives has found that creating green jobs actually destroys jobs in other sectors — and most of the time doesn’t lead to permanent employment.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein is fuming over a federal plan to use some Mojave desert lands to develop solar power plants and wind farms.
In a letter to Dept. of the InteriorSecretary Ken Salazar, Feinstein said she planned to introduce legislation that would protect the former railroad lands, thereby preventing the federal government from leasing them to renewable energy project developers. The 600,000 acres in question were acquired by and donated to the government’s Bureau of Land Management between 1999 and 2004 for the purpose of conservation.
Many people hope to come back from a wildlife safari with close-up pictures of lions or elephants – this picture below is my best attempt from a search for the largest land animals in Antarctica.
If you look hard you can see a reddish blob at the tip of the thumb — it’s Antarctica’s most aggressive land predator, an eight-legged mite known as Rhagidia.