Sunday, July 08, 2012

A riddle only Greenies can answer: How can something be global when it isn't global?

If hot weather in some parts of America is due to global warming, why is it unusually cool in other places -- e.g. Sweden and the Pacific NW?

Michelle Malkin

Good news: The Waldo Canyon fire, which forced 32,000 residents (including our family) to flee, claimed two lives and destroyed 347 homes, is now 100 percent contained. Bad news: Radical environmentalists won't stop blowing hot air about this year's infernal season across the West.

Al Gore slithered out of the political morgue to bemoan nationwide heat records and pimp his new "Climate Reality Project," which blames global warming for the wildfire outbreak. NBC meteorologist Doug Kammerer asserted: "If we did not have global warming, we wouldn't see this." Agriculture Department Undersecretary Harris Sherman, who oversees the Forest Service, claimed to the Washington Post: "The climate is changing, and these fires are a very strong indicator of that."

And the Associated Press (or rather, the Activist Press) lit the fear-mongering torch with an eco-propaganda piece titled "U.S. summer is what 'global warming will look like.'"

The problem is that the actual conclusions of scientists included in AP's screed don't back up the apocalyptic headline. As the reporter acknowledges under that panicky banner:

"Scientifically linking individual weather events to climate change takes intensive study, complicated mathematics, computer models and lots of time. Sometimes it isn't caused by global warming. Weather is always variable; freak things happen."

So, this U.S. summer may or may not really look like "what global warming looks like." Kinda. Sorta. Possibly. Possibly not.

Furthermore, the AP reporter concedes, the "global" nature of the warming and its supposed catastrophic events have "been local. Europe, Asia and Africa aren't having similar disasters now, although they've had their own extreme events in recent years."

A more hedging headline would have been journalistically responsible, but Chicken Little-ism better serves the global warming blame-ologists' agenda.

More inconvenient truths: As The Washington Times noted this week, the National Climatic Data Center shows that "Colorado has actually seen its average temperature drop slightly from 1998 to 2011, when data is collected only from rural stations and not those that have been urbanized since 1900."

Radical green efforts to block logging and timber sales in national forests since the 1990s are the real culprits. Wildlife mitigation experts point to incompetent forest management and militant opposition to thinning the timber fuel supply.

Another symptom of green obstructionism: widespread bark beetle infestations. The U.S. Forest Service itself reported last year:

"During the last part of the 20th century, widespread treatments in lodgepole pine stands that would have created age class diversity, enhanced the vigor of remaining trees, and improved stand resiliency to drought or insect attack -- such as timber harvest and thinning -- lacked public acceptance. Proposals for such practices were routinely appealed and litigated, constraining the ability of the Forest Service to manage what had become large expanses of even-aged stands susceptible to a bark beetle outbreak."

Capitulation to lawsuit-happy green thugs, in others, undermined "public acceptance" of common sense, biodiversity-preserving and lifesaving timber harvest and thinning practices.

Local, state and federal officials offered effusive praise for my fellow Colorado Springs residents who engaged in preventive mitigation efforts in their neighborhoods. The government flacks said it made a life-and-death difference. Yet, litigious environmental groups have sabotaged such mitigation efforts at the national level -- in effect, creating an explosive tinderbox out of the West.

Stoking global warming alarms may make for titillating headlines and posh Al Gore confabs. But it's a human blame avoidance strategy rooted in ideological extremism and flaming idiocy.


You ain't seen nothing yet

A massive swath of the East Coast has been struck by a weather phenomenon called a “derecho.” Hot winds whipping at up to category 1 hurricane levels extended over Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas wreaking havoc with the availability of electricity during a high 90-degree heat wave.

As the predictable morons of doom, the global warming extremists, climb out of their dormancy like 13-year cycle cicadas to declare the heat to be proof of their faith, it is fair to remind readers that these same “experts” assured us that when the D.C. area was hit with a massive snow storm dubbed Snowmaggedon a couple of years back that the blizzard event was just weather and should not be analyzed too much.

The same local government officials in areas surrounding D.C. who couldn’t get roads cleared of snow during Snowmaggedon are busily denouncing the utility companies for not snapping their fingers and getting power restored to their hot, frustrated constituents.

But even more ironic is that many of these same people, who demand air conditioning out of thin air, actually are the most ardent supporters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on mercury that would put 37 power plants out of business within the next three years.

That’s 37 fewer sources of electricity. The very same electricity that people depend upon to run their water wells, heat, lights and air conditioning.

That’s 37 fewer sources of electricity that can be relied upon to provide the source of electricity to take up the slack when the power grid gets strained.

In fact, it is my prediction that the same morons of doom who so glibly support the new EPA mercury rule will be the first to blame the utility companies when summer brown outs and black outs occur.

They will be the producers of public service announcements telling customers that it is their fault for the failure of the electric grid due to overuse with patriotic demands that thermostats be turned to 78 in the summer and 65 in the winter, that clothes washing only occur in the wee hours of the night and people burn a solo curly cue light bulb at night and squint through the darkness, Abraham Lincoln-like, to read a book.

Nowhere will they admit that they shut down the most available, convenient and inexpensive source of electricity with their anti-coal crusade.

In the world of the environmental jihadists, there can be no accountability for the consequences of their actions. To admit that they have caused massive disruption and harm takes them from their lofty moral perches.

All that matters to them is that they meant well.

Unfortunately, shutting down power plants across the nation does not make the air conditioner run. It does not help the elderly survive the heat wave that strikes every summer. It doesn’t provide comparatively low-cost heat in the winter.

The simple law of nature is that actions have consequences, and if America continues to follow the environmental crackpots of the left, we will reap what we have sown.

And when the lights go out on the city, there will be no one to blame but ourselves. Although we know from history that the only people who won’t accept responsibility will be those who shut down the power plants themselves.

After all, they meant well, so it cannot be their fault. Can it?

In years to come, as Americans join their Third World brothers and sisters sitting in the sweltering heat without the electric power to run our air conditioners, perhaps we will finally understand the meaning of the phrase, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”


Obama Released Restrictive New Energy Plan Under Cover of SCOTUS, Holder Contempt

File this one under While You Were Out: the Obama Administration unveiled its new five-year energy plan on Thursday, when the rest of us were conveniently preoccupied with SCOTUS and the Holder contempt vote. Real smooth.

Of course, it's pretty clear why they wanted this to fly under the radar: as Hot Air's Erika Johnsen noted on Saturday, the plan is just not good. She points out that it opens up a miniscule percentage of our offshore resources, but not nearly enough to make a dent in our energy use, and what's more, by constraining the number of jobs that this could produce, it does nothing to help the economy. Some details:
U.S. oil companies will be allowed to drill in more areas of the Gulf of Mexico but won only limited access to the Arctic under the final version of the Obama Administration's five year drilling plan that was slammed by industry and some environmentalists.

The 2012-2017 plan calls for three potential lease sales in areas offshore Alaska but the auctions would not be held until the final years of the plan because of environmental concerns about operating in the Arctic.

"Today, the Obama Administration has announced a bleak future for American energy production by keeping 85 percent of America's offshore areas under lock and key and refusing to open any new areas to drilling," said Doc Hastings, Republican chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

The plan calls for 15 potential lease sales in six offshore areas, including in the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico, and the portion of the Eastern Gulf not currently under Congressional moratorium.

Indeed, the plan is so bad that it's been panned by everyone, from the GOP to hard-left environmentalists (who, ironically, think it's too permissive) -- but interestingly, it's produced a fair amount of unity in the Virginian Congressional delegation. Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat, has joined with his Commonwealth brethren to oppose the president's restrictive plan:
Republicans pounced on President Obama on Thursday afternoon for his administration's failure to include Virginia in the final five-year plan for offshore oil and gas drilling.

But it wasn't just Republicans complaining. Sen. Jim Webb (D) joined the bipartisan dissent.

"I regret that the administration failed to include Virginia in its proposed final five-year lease plan," Webb said. "Energy exploration . . . would boost domestic energy production, while benefiting the commonwealth's economy."

The plan announced Thursday postpones drilling off Virginia's coast until at least 2017.

Obama had announced that Virginia would become one of the first East Coast states to drill offshore. But the administration postponed lease sales after the spill and never included Virginia in subsequent plans.

The last study of the Atlantic Ocean by the federal government, conducted two decades ago, estimates that at least 130 million barrels of oil and at least 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could be off Virginia's coast. That's equal to the amount of oil used in six days and the amount of gas used in less than a month in the United States.

Errr, so is this what an "all of the above" energy plan looks like?


The touted "Alternative" energy sources of today are not practical now and are never likely to be

And even if something new and satisfactory is devised, it takes several lifetimes to put a new energy system into place, and wishful thinking can’t speed things along

By Vaclav Smil (Vaclav Smil is a distinguished professor in the department of environment and geography at the University of Manitoba, in Canada)

In June 2004 the editor of an energy journal called to ask me to comment on a just-announced plan to build the world’s largest photovoltaic electric generating plant. Where would it be, I asked—Arizona? Spain? North Africa? No, it was to be spread among three locations in rural Bavaria, southeast of Nuremberg.

I said there must be some mistake. I grew up not far from that place, just across the border with the Czech Republic, and I will never forget those seemingly endless days of summer spent inside while it rained incessantly. Bavaria is like Seattle in the United States or Sichuan province in China. You don’t want to put a solar plant in Bavaria, but that is exactly where the Germans put it. The plant, with a peak output of 10 megawatts, went into operation in June 2005.

It happened for the best reason there is in politics: money. Welcome to the world of new renewable energies, where the subsidies rule—and consumers pay.

Without these subsidies, renewable energy plants other than hydroelectric and geothermal ones can’t yet compete with conventional generators. There are several reasons, starting with relatively low capacity factors—the most electricity a plant can actually produce divided by what it would produce if it could be run full time. The capacity factor of a typical nuclear power plant is more than 90 percent; for a coal-fired generating plant it’s about 65 to 70 percent. A photovoltaic installation can get close to 20 percent—in sunny Spain—and a wind turbine, well placed on dry land, from 25 to 30 percent. Put it offshore and it may even reach 40 percent. To convert to either of the latter two technologies, you must also figure in the need to string entirely new transmission lines to places where sun and wind abound, as well as the need to manage a more variable system load, due to the intermittent nature of the power.

All of these complications are well known, and all of them have been too lightly dismissed by alternative energy backers and the media. Most egregious of all is the boosters’ failure to recognize the time it takes to convert to any new source of energy, no matter how compelling the arguments for it may be.

An example is the 2008 plan promoted by former vice president Al Gore, which called for replacing all fossil-fueled generation in the United States in just a decade. Another is Google’s plan, announced in 2008 and abandoned in 2011, which envisaged cutting out coal generation by 2030. Trumping them all was a 2009 article in Scientific American by Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil engineering at Stanford University, and Mark Delucchi, a researcher in transportation studies at the University of California, Davis. They proposed converting the energy economy of the entire world to renewable sources by 2030.

History and a consideration of the technical requirements show that the problem is much greater than these advocates have supposed.

What was the German government thinking in 2004, when it offered a subsidy, known as a feed-in tariff, that guaranteed investors as much as €0.57 per kilowatt-hour for the next two decades of photovoltaic generation? At the time, the average price for electricity from other sources was about €0.20/kWh; by comparison, the average U.S. electricity price in 2004 was 7.6 cents, or about €0.06/kWh. With subsidies like that, it was no wonder that Bavaria Solarpark was just the beginning of a rush to build photovoltaic plants in Germany. By the end of 2011, Germany’s PV installations had a capacity of nearly 25 gigawatts, which was more than a third of the global total. If you subsidize something enough, at first it can seem almost reasonable; only later does reality intervene. This past March, stung by the news that Germans were paying the second highest electricity rates in Europe, the German parliament voted to cut the various solar subsidies by up to 29 percent.
graphic link to downtime graph

Such generous subsidies are by no means a German peculiarity. They have been the norm in the new world of renewable energies; only their targets differ. Spain also subsidized wind and PV generation before cutting its feed-in tariff for large installations by nearly 50 percent in 2010. China’s bene­fits to its wind-turbine makers were so generous that the United States complained about them to the World Trade Organization in December 2010. In the United States the greatest beneficiary so far has been neither solar nor wind but biomass—specifically, corn used to produce ethanol.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the excise tax credit for ethanol production cost taxpayers US $6.1 billion in 2011. On top of that direct cost are three indirect ones: those related to soil erosion, the runoff of excess nitrate from fertilizers (which ends up in the Gulf of Mexico, where it creates dead zones in coastal waters), and the increased food costs that accrue when the world’s largest exporter of grain diverts 40 percent of its corn to make ethanol. And topping all those off, the resulting fuel is used mostly in energy-inefficient vehicles.

You might argue that [PDF] subsidies aren’t bad in themselves; indeed, there is a long history of using them to encourage new energy sources. The oil and gas industries have benefited from decades of tax relief designed to stimulate exploration. The nuclear industry has grown on the back of direct and enormous R&D support. In the United States it received almost 54 percent of all federal research funds between 1948 and 2007. In France it got the all-out support of the state electricity-​generating company. Without that subsidy, the industry would never have managed to get its recent share of more than 75 percent of the French electricity market. We must therefore ask whether the subsidies for alternative energy can deliver what their promoters promise.

Make no mistake—they promise much. The most ardent supporters of solar, wind, and biomass argue that these sources can replace fossil fuels and create highly reliable, nonpolluting, carbon-free systems priced no higher than today’s cheapest coal-fired electricity generation, all in just a few decades. That would be soon enough to prevent the rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide from its current level of 394 parts per million to more than 450 ppm—at which point, climatologists estimate, the average global temperature will rise by 2 °C. I wish all these promises would come true, but I think instead I’ll put my faith in clear-eyed technical assessments.

The matter of affordable costs is the hardest promise to assess, given the many assorted subsidies and the creative accounting techniques that have for years propped up alternative and renewable generation technologies. Both the European Wind Energy Association and the American Wind Energy Association claim that wind turbines already produce cheaper electricity than coal-fired power plants do, while the solar enthusiasts love to take the history of impressively declining prices for photovoltaic cells and project them forward to imply that we’ll soon see installed costs that are amazingly low.

But other analyses refute the claims of cheap wind electricity, and still others take into account the fact that photo­voltaic installations require not just cells but also frames, inverters, batteries, and labor. These associated expenses are not plummeting at all, and that is why the cost of electricity generated by residential solar systems in the United States has not changed dramatically since 2000. At that time the national mean was close to 40 U.S. cents per kilowatt­-hour, while the latest Solarbuzz data for 2012 show 28.91 cents per kilowatt-hour in sunny climates and 63.60 cents per kilowatt-­hour in cloudy ones. That’s still far more expensive than using fossil fuels, which in the United States cost between 11 and 12 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2011. The age of mass-scale, decentralized photovoltaic generation is not here yet.

Then consider the question of scale. Wind power is more advanced commercially than solar power, but with about 47 gigawatts in the United States at the end of 2011 it still accounted for less than 4 percent of the net installed summer generating capacity in that country. And because the capacity factors of U.S. wind turbines are so low, wind supplied less than 3 percent of all the electricity generated there in 2011.

It took 30 years—since the launch of small, modern wind turbines in 1980—to reach even that modest percentage. By comparison, nuclear power had accounted for 20 percent of all U.S. generation within 30 years of its launch in 1957, and gas turbines achieved 10 percent three decades after they went into operation in the early 1960s.

Projections of wind-power generation into the future have been misleadingly optimistic, because they are all based on initial increases from a minuscule base. So what if total global wind turbine capacity rose sixfold between 2001 and 2011? Such high growth rates are typical of systems in early stages of development, particularly when—as in this case—the growth has been driven primarily by subsidies.

And a new factor has been changing the prospects for wind and solar: the arrival of abundant supplies of natural gas extracted by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, from shales. Fracking is uncommon outside the United States and Canada at the moment, but it could be used in many countries in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, which also have large shale deposits. Some countries, such as France and Germany, have banned the technology for fear of possible environmental effects, but such concerns accompany all new energy technologies, even those touted for their environmental virtues. And natural gas can be used to generate electricity in particularly efficient ways. For example, combined-cycle gas plants exploit the heat leaving the gas turbine to produce steam and generate additional electricity using a steam turbine. What’s more, gas turbine modules with up to 60 megawatts of capacity can be up and running within a month of delivery, and they can be conveniently sited so as to feed their output into existing transmission lines.

The siting of massive wind farms is also becoming increasingly contentious—many people don’t like their look, object to their noise, or worry about their effect on migrating birds and bats [see “Fixing Wind Power’s Bat Problem,” in this issue]. This has become a problem even for some offshore projects. For example, a vast project off Martha’s Vineyard island, in Massachusetts, which was supposed to be the first offshore wind farm in the United States, has been stalled for years because of local opposition. The intermittence of the wind makes it hard to estimate how much electricity can be generated in a few days’ time, and the shortage of operating experience with large turbines introduces even greater uncertainty over the long term. We’ll just have to wait to see how reliable they’ll be over their supposed lifetimes of 20 to 30 years and how much repair and maintenance they will require.

And, of course, you can’t use wind turbines unless you’re prepared to hook them to the grid by building lots of additional high-voltage transmission lines, an expensive and typically legally challenging undertaking.

Assuming that any major wind farms in the United States would be built on the Great Plains, where there is sufficient wind and land, developers would need to construct many thousands of kilometers of transmission lines to connect those farms to the main markets for electricity on the coasts. Of course, the connection challenge is easier for small countries (particularly if they can rely on their neighbors), which is one reason why Denmark became a leader in wind power.

In the United States, the problem goes beyond building new lines; it is also necessary to add them to an existing grid that is already stressed and inadequate. The most recent Report Card for American Infrastructure, prepared with 2009 data by the American Society of Civil Engineers, gives the country’s energy system a D+, largely because the grid is relatively old and its operations are repeatedly challenged by spikes of high summer demand. Raising that grade is more than a technical challenge, because improvements in infrastructure often face entrenched political opposition—the not-in-my-backyard syndrome.

As for Europe, there may be better interconnections, but it faces other problems in converting to wind and solar power. Its economic prospects are bleak, and that will limit its ability to invest massively in new technologies. Even Germany, the strongest European Union economy and a great proponent of new energies, has a difficult road ahead; it must find a replacement for its nuclear plants after having decided, following Japan’s nuclear disaster in Fukushima, to phase them out. This is no small challenge at a time when Germany is cutting its subsidies for wind and solar power and its economy is close to recession.

Government intervention is needed because the odds are poor that any private program will be massive enough to speed the conversion to new sources of energy. But even governments in the rich countries are having trouble shoring up essential infrastructure, mainly because of mounting debts. Their causes include uncontained health-care costs, trade deficits, uncompetitive manufacturing, and tax-­revenue shortfalls. At the same time, government subsidies to new energy technologies haven’t delivered on an often-made promise: They haven’t created many new, permanent, well-paid jobs either in the EU or the United States.

The ultimate justification for alternative energy centers on its mitigation of global warming: Using wind, solar, and biomass sources of energy adds less greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. But because greenhouse gases have global effects, the efficacy of this substitution must be judged on a global scale. And then we have to face the fact that the Western world’s wind and solar contributions to the reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions are being utterly swamped by the increased burning of coal in China and India.

The numbers are sobering. Between 2004 and 2009 the United States added about 28 GW of wind turbines. That’s the equivalent of fewer than 10 GW of coal-fired capacity, given the very different load factors. During the same period China installed more than 30 times [PDF] as much new coal-fired capacity in large central plants, facilities that have an expected life of at least 30 years. In 2010 alone China’s carbon-dioxide emissions increased by nearly 800 million metric tons, an equivalent of close to 15 percent of the U.S. total. In the same year the United States generated almost 95 terawatt-hours of electricity from wind, thus theoretically preventing the emission of only some 65 million tons of carbon dioxide. Furthermore, China is adding 200 GW of coal-fired plants by 2015, during which time the United States will add only about 30 GW of new wind capacity, equivalent to less than 15 GW of coal-fired generation. Of course, the rapid increase in the burning of Asian coal will eventually moderate, but even so, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cannot possibly stay below 450 ppm.

Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of energy transitions is their speed. Substituting one form of energy for another takes a long time. U.S. nuclear generation began to deliver 10 percent of all electricity after 23 years of operation, and it took 38 years to reach a 20 percent share, which occurred in 1995. It has stayed around that mark ever since. Electricity generation by natural gas turbines took 45 years to reach 20 percent.

In 2025 modern wind turbines will have been around for some 30 years, and if by then they supply just 15 percent of the electricity in the United States, it will be a stunning success. And even the most optimistic projects for solar generation don’t promise half that much. The quest for non­carbon sources of electricity is highly desirable, and eventually such sources will predominate. But this can happen only if planners have realistic expectations. The comparison to a giant oil tanker, uncomfortable as it is, fits perfectly: Turning it around takes lots of time.

And turning around the world’s fossil-fuel-based energy system is a truly gargantuan task. That system now has an annual throughput of more than 7 billion metric tons of hard coal and lignite, about 4 billion metric tons of crude oil, and more than 3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. This adds up to 14 trillion watts of power. And its infrastructure—coal mines, oil and gas fields, refineries, pipelines, trains, trucks, tankers, filling stations, power plants, transformers, transmission and distribution lines, and hundreds of millions of gasoline, kerosene, diesel, and fuel oil engines—constitutes the costliest and most extensive set of installations, networks, and machines that the world has ever built, one that has taken generations and tens of trillions of dollars to put in place.

It is impossible to displace this supersystem in a decade or two—or five, for that matter. Replacing it with an equally extensive and reliable alternative based on renewable energy flows is a task that will require decades of expensive commitment. It is the work of generations of engineers.


More Obama Green Energy Corruption

The previous green-energy crony-corruption column unraveled SolarReserve and its share of “meaningful” political connections –– Citigroup, a major investor in SolarReserve, also a top 2008 Obama donor, as well as two former Citigroup executives, one of whom is an Obama “buddy and bundler” and now has a “seat” at the White House, while the other served on President Obama’s Transition Team and now sits on his Jobs Council.

Then add more investor connections –– one of whom went on to be a 2008 Obama campaign advisor and then a DOE advisory role under Secretary Chu. Another was a 2008 Obama bundler who just so happened to be a frequent White House visitor, while the other was related to the former Speaker of the House. The mix is topped off with a high-powered lobbyist with White House connections, and several SolarReserve board members who just so happen to be 2008 (and 2010) Democrat, Harry Reid, and Obama donors.

The combination is a recipe for SolarReserve’s $737 million DOE “noninvestment” grade loan guarantee, which was rated a BB by Fitch and potential millions in a 1603 tax-free grant—both programs implemented under the 2009 Obama Stimulus package.

SolarReserve is only the first chapter in our green-energy crony-corruption story. The next is BrightSource Energy. Like SolarReserve, the BrightSource tale also has interesting political ties: Obama, Reid and Democrat donors, as well as a DOE advisor. However, it gets even brighter when you look into its high-powered investors.

As featured in the introduction, here is a quick overview of BrightSource’s green-energy crony-corruption Story:

BrightSource Energy has a three-unit power system project known as “Ivanpah,” located near the California/Nevada border, south of Las Vegas, which uses a proprietary power-tower solar thermal system. Ivanpah I and III have a BB+ rating while Ivanpah II is BB. On April 11, 2011, the DOE announced the finalization of $1.6 billion in loan guarantees for BrightSource’s Ivanpah project. The apparent “payoffs” to Democrats are myriad—the company having donated at least $21,600 to Democrats since 2008 (and zero dollars to Republicans). According to a Washington Free Beacon report, Senator Harry “Reid received almost $4,000 from Brightsource executives in the 2010 cycle, including $2,400 from CEO John Woolard, who hosted a fundraiser for the majority leader. Woolard is also a Barack Obama donor and has visited the White House 10 times since Obama took office.” Additionally, Sanjay Wagle (a significant 2008 Obama campaign supporter and contributor), a principal at Vantage Point Partners (the major stakeholder in BrightSource) was an advisor at the DOE at the time the loan was approved. And, John Bryson, BrightSource Chairman, became Obama’s Secretary of Commerce (although he resigned in June following a series of mysterious auto accidents) and has ties to an organization that helped craft the stimulus package.

The above thumbnail introduced the key players. Here we’ll really get to know them and, more specifically, their connections to the Obama administration.

John Bryson was Chairman of BrightSource Energy prior to his appointment as Secretary of Commerce with the Obama White House in May 2011—shortly after the BrightSource loan was approved. Bryson’s appointment was confirmed in October. The Washington Free Beacon reports: “According to financial disclosures, Bryson had up to $500,000 in stock options from BrightSource and a $700,000 advisory fee from Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, an investment group that has bought a number of solar farms in California. He was also the CEO of Edison International, which obtained exclusive power purchase agreements for four of the solar projects, at the time the awards were issued.”

Bryson also has ties to Obama supporter George Soros. In 1970, Bryson was a co-founder of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which is funded, in part, by the Tides Foundation, to which philanthropist George Soros has donated more than $7 million over the years. Ron Arnold of the Green Tracking Library says: “the NRDC is one of the richest, most snobbish elite Big Green groups in America.” The NRDC is a member of and funder for the Apollo Alliance, a far left organization, which has boasted about being behind several of the Obama administration’s “green” initiatives, in addition to crafting “green” sections of the stimulus bill. (More on the Apollo Alliance in a future column.)

John Woolard is President and CEO of BrightSource Energy. A March 16 2012 hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (HOGRC) revealed that Woolard used his connections to try to get a “commitment” for the DOE loan for BrightSource—despite the fact that Secretary Chu has repeatedly said the loans were based on merit. During the hearing, Woolard said: “I believe that everything we did in our project was fully on the merits. It was a very solid project.” Yet, a series of emails involving Woolard show him interacting with decision-makers in the administration seeking political influence. HOGRC Chairman Issa told The Hill: “Clearly we have a discovery of emails showing there was direct conversation intended by the people having those conversations to be lobbying all the way up to and including President Obama.”

The emails reveal communications between Woolard and Matt Rogers, senior adviser to the secretary of energy for the Recovery Act, and between Woolard and Jonathan Silver, executive director of the Energy Department loan program. The January 2010 Woolard/Rogers email referenced a conversation between Peter Darbee, then-CEO and chairman of Pacific Gas and Electric, and President Obama that addressed the program’s challenges. At the hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, emphasized to Woolard, PG& E and Darbee “had a vested interest in getting this thing approved because you were providing them their required commitment for green power.” The March 7, 2011, Woolard/Silver email asked Silver to look over a letter drafted by Woolard and then-Brightsource chairman John Bryson that requested direct White House influence in BrightSource’s loan guarantee application. The letter, intended to be sent to then-White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, said: “We need a commitment from the WH to quarterback loan closure between OMB and DOE.” It also included a request for “guidance and support from the White House.” One month after the email exchange asking for “direct White House influence,” the $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee was approved. Even the Washington Post confirms that: “venture capitalists who held advisory roles with the Energy Department were given access to Obama’s top advisers.”

According to the Washington Examiner report, “President Obama discussed the Department of Energy loan program with a stakeholder dependent on the DOE, and the conversation appears to have expedited the process.”

The “stakeholder” (Darbee) and Rogers and Silver each have their own interesting “connections” that can be found on the Green Corruption Blog.

Sanjay Wagle, according to the HOGRC report, “has most recently served as Renewable Energy Advisor to DOE under Secretary Chu.” The report continues, “Prior to arriving in Washington, Wagle was a principal at Vantage Point Venture Partners, a cleantech venture capital firm whose investments received $2.4 billion in taxpayer funds….His former firm and the companies it invested in, therefore had a large stake in the financing decisions being made by DOE at the time.” Wagle joined the DOE just as, according to the Washington Post, “the administration embarked on a massive program to stimulate the economy with federal investments in clean-technology firms.”

In addition to being a major stakeholder in BrightSource, Vantage Point received different types of government funding for at least nine green energy projects. (Note: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a Partner and Senior Advisor at Vantage Point.) The HOGRC report lists three of the nine projects, so the $2.4 billion cited in the report is probably really much higher.

Wagle was an Obama fundraiser for the 2008 campaign through his Clean Tech for Obama group. In time for the 2012 election cycle, Wagle left the DOE and has returned to California to work as an investor and clean-tech advisor. Like some of his DOE peers (Steve Spinner and Steve Westly), he has probably gone back to fundraising for Obama.

Bernie Toon, who served then-Senator Joe Biden as his Chief of Staff, became a lobbyist for BrightSource Energy on March 6, 2011. According to the Wall Street Journal, “BrightSource spent more than $500,000 on lobbying in the third quarter of 2010 through the second quarter of 2011.” $40,000 of the lobbying money went to Toon—which paid off immediately. Toon, and BrightSource executives made two visits to the White House in March. The loan was approved the following month. Toon’s contract ended the day after BrightSource got the loan.

In addition to these high-profile connections, BrightSource Energy’s investors include other top Obama donors including Google, Morgan Stanley, BP Alternative Energy, and Goldman Sachs—though, according to Forbes, “the federal loan guarantee is financing the bulk of Invanpah’s construction costs.”

As we’ve seen with SolarReserve, and now with BrightSource Energy, the companies who get the government funding are those with inside connections that may be decades old, as in the case of Toon, or current, as in the case of John Bryson, who would still be Secretary of Commerce if not for the recent car incidents. Sadly, the widely publicized Solyndra story, SolarReserve and BrightSource Energy are just three of the many stories in the green-energy crony-corruption saga. Next week, we’ll profile two energy companies not only in Senator Harry Ried's back yard, but with unique political connections and even DOE violations.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

High cost and nil effect: that's Australia's carbon tax

ONE of the main reasons the Gillard government is so unsuccessful in selling its carbon tax is that its overall narrative is so utterly dishonest.

Here is the key example. The government and its countless, mostly paid, carbon tax spruikers would have you believe that the Australian carbon tax is in line with most international practice.

Here is a sharp reality check. Nowhere in the world, in any significant jurisdiction, is any carbon tax or market-based mechanism having a significant economic or environmental impact.

There is a thick cloud of fantastic obfuscation and misleading falderol all around this issue.

So I asked Warwick McKibbin of the Australian National University, formerly a board member of the Reserve Bank, and the Australian economist who has done the most serious academic work on carbon markets and the like, about it.

I don't want to verbal McKibbin and attribute to him views he doesn't hold. He supports a very specific type of carbon market mechanism, completely unlike the one the government is introducing.

However, on the matter of simple fact, I asked McKibbin whether any market-based system anywhere has produced any significant greenhouse gas abatement.

His reply: "Right now, no. The only evidence is in the models."

That's a very telling statement. No market mechanism has had any success in greenhouse gas abatement. The only evidence that it might have some success is in the modelling the various schemes' designers have contrived in their heads and on their computers.

McKibbin continues: "There is no evidence of substantial reductions in emissions through a market-based mechanism, nor any other mechanism really, except building nuclear power stations."

I put the same question to Nicholas Linacre, who now runs a consultancy in Washington. He was director of carbon markets in the Climate Change Department in Canberra until Kevin Rudd abandoned the proposed emissions trading scheme. He left the public service and went to Washington where last year he wrote the World Bank's official State and Trends of the Carbon Market 2011 report.

He told me he agrees with McKibbin's assessment: no existing market mechanism is having much effect anywhere.

But what about the European carbon market that the government makes so much of?

Says McKibbin: "The recession in Europe has brought down emissions much more than any carbon price the Europeans have implemented."

The US has no national carbon price, but what about the couple of US state-based schemes?

McKibbin again: "The recession in the US has brought down emissions much more than the state-based systems. People I speak to in the US are very pessimistic about their current schemes ever having an effect."

There are two main US state-based schemes. The western scheme is based on California but it doesn't start until next year and is very unlikely to have any substantial effect. The other, in the northeast, has such a high cap and such a low price that it has negligible economic, or greenhouse gas, consequence.

Yet the government talks of these schemes as though they have been up and running for years, turning whole economies away from carbon. That's a giant, giant con. It just ain't remotely so.

The truth is, as the Productivity Commission concluded, no economy anywhere in the world is doing anything like the Australian carbon tax with a price of $23 a tonne.

Says Linacre: "No one's doing anything comparable (to the Australian tax). Australia is setting the highest price.

"Carbon prices across the globe are relatively low, so many Australian companies are keen to buy (carbon) credits internationally because in theory they'll get a lower price. This is why (Climate Change Minister Greg) Combet is trying to renegotiate the floor price with the Greens."

The Gillard government's carbon tax is designed not to lower Australia's greenhouse gas emissions but to make them increase more slowly, and we are to buy our carbon reductions on the international market.

This is the Green Development mechanism. However, Linacre does not believe such an international trading scheme will ever really work.

He says: "This mechanism of carbon credits may not survive because Europe is turning away from it. Most low-cost carbon credits are coming out of China, and Europe won't accept those any more. So will we be buying the credits Europe won't buy?"

I did not get to explore this issue with Linacre but Europe won't accept China's credits because everyone knows they are mostly shonky. There has been a certain amount of actual fraud. There has been a lot of spurious activity undertaken and then forgone wholly for the purpose of creating carbon credits. The whole thing is absolutely ropey. No intelligent person would waste two bob on it if politics didn't require it.

The Gillard government and its acolytes talk incessantly about the fact that a couple of Chinese provinces have talked about the possibility of trialling a market mechanism.

They treat this airy policy speculation as though China already had a carbon price and carbon market and was utterly committed to this.

Says McKibbin: "The Chinese prices they are talking about are tiny. What we have hit the economy with is a very high price."

Says Linacre: "In the case of China I find myself very sceptical. They say they are going to do something one day but they are arguing so strongly against the European aviation carbon trading scheme. They won't provide the information the Europeans need for their calculations. I don't believe the Chinese are going to do anything myself."

The New Zealanders have watered down their low-price scheme. The Canadians say they will never have one. The Japanese lost interest in a carbon market after Fukushima; and while the South Koreans have made a notional pledge to start a scheme in 2015, it is yet to be designed and is likely to be infinitely less consequential than ours.

In other words, we are imposing a cost on our economy unlike that imposed by any other government. You can probably find the occasional carbon price notionally greater than Australia's, but it is inevitably levied on such as small a segment of the economy, and paid by so few that its impact is not comparable.

No one in the developing world is going anywhere near this line of policy. Indonesia, a country I love, sometimes talks a good game on carbon. Many countries do this for political reasons. But only actions count. Indonesia continues to give huge fuel subsidies to its people. This is the opposite of a carbon tax. It is a carbon subsidy.

The Australian carbon tax is a species orphan, the Collins-class submarine of global environmental policy. It is environmentally inconsequential, economically costly, administratively nightmarish and unlike anything else in the world. Policy folly that it is, the Gillard government would still have a better chance of selling it if it occasionally told the truth about it.



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