Britain to be hit by entirely typical weather
TEMPERATURES in the UK are going to fall sharply over the coming weeks because that is what happens at this time of year, it has been claimed. During winter snow can often reach the ground
Meteorologists believe that winter, a spell of short, cold days commonly defined as a season, will be more or less exactly what you would expect.
Professor Henry Brubaker of the Institute for Studies said: “Household fuel costs will rise considerably as families try to increase the temperature of their homes.
“People on the verge of death may die.
“Ice and snow will create icy, snowy conditions.
“Your car will refuse to start.
“Because it’s winter.
“It’s really nothing to freak out about, unless you’re a pre-Neanderthal cave dweller who believes sunsets are caused by Gark, the angry moon god.”
He added: “There’s a high probability that this winter will be followed by another sudden, weather-related phenomenon known as spring.”
Housewife Nikki Hollis said: “The important thing is to stay inside, carry a flaming torch at all times and don’t be sentimental about eating your plumpest child.”
A Climate of Fear, Cash and Correctitude
Worried About the Climate? End Subsidies
At the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP-19) of the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), one of the better ideas for lowering the emissions of greenhouse gases is to eliminate consumer and producer fossil fuel consumption subsidies.
The International Energy Agency estimates that consumption subsidies amounted to $544 billion in 2012. Ending subsidies would encourage consumers and producers to cut back fossil fuel use, which in turn would reduce carbon dioxide emissions. And would save taxpayers a great deal of money.
On Thursday, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) held a session on reducing nitrous oxide emissions. Nitrous oxide is a long-lived gas that has a global warming potential of 310, meaning one molecule traps over 310 times more heat than a molecule of carbon dioxide. The amount of nitrous oxide put into the atmosphere is equivalent to about 3 gigatons of carbon dioxide, which approximates the emissions of half of the world’s entire vehicle fleet. In addition, nitrous oxide depletes the stratospheric ozone layer that shields the earth’s surface from damaging ultraviolet light. So preventing nitrous oxide emissions is a twofer—cutting it lowers the temperature and protects the ozone layer.
Nitrous oxide exists naturally in the atmosphere, but, as a result of human activities, its concentration has increased by 20 percent over pre-industrial levels, making it the third most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide and methane. The new UNEP report, Drawing Down N2O, outlines several ways to cut emissions.
Two-thirds of human emissions come from agricultural activities, e.g., using nitrogen fertilizer or livestock waste management. It is not an exaggeration to say that the invention of a process to synthesize nitrogen fertilizer made the modern world possible, as fertilizers boost crop yields as much as 50 percent. Nitrogen fertilizer that isn’t taken up by plants boosts input costs to farmers. However, farmers have to make tradeoffs between a number of different costs for fuel, equipment, seed, labor, fertilizer, and so forth in order to make a profit, and managing nitrogen fertilizer is usually not at the top of the list for improving the bottom line.
That being said, if it’s economic and ecological madness to subsidize the burning of fossil fuels, it’s just as barmy to subsidize agriculture in the amount of $300 billion annually. The World Bank reported in 2012 that fertilizer subsidies in India amounted to 2 percent of that country’s GDP. Agricultural subsidies clearly encourage farmers to overuse fertilizer, which in turn produces nitrous oxide emissions that harm the ozone layer and raise global temperature. The UNEP report notes that research and development can help improve nitrogen use efficiency. As it happens, private seed growers have already developed crop plants that use half of the nitrogen of conventional plants.
Another UNEP report reckons that, in order to remain on a path that keeps the average increase in global temperatures below 2 degrees centigrade of the pre-industrial level, the world must close a “gap” in what countries have pledged to cut under the UNFCCC by an additional 8 to 12 gigatons of greenhouse gases by 2020. The UNEP nitrous oxide report estimates that by 2020 it should be possible to cut those emissions corresponding to about 0.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Such a reduction would represent about 8 percent of the cuts needed to close the emissions gap and it would also help protect the ozone layer.
Finally, cutting back on the emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as refrigerants would help lower projected future increases in the mean global temperature. HFCs were introduced in the 1990s to replace chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants whose emissions were damaging the ozone layer. Under the Montreal Protocol in 1987 countries began a phase-out of CFCs, a project I agreed with, as explained in my book Eco-Scam: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse. CFCs were also powerful greenhouse gases and eliminating them avoided emissions equivalent to 8 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year between 1990 and 2010. With respect to keeping the mean global temperature down, the effects of cuts in CFC emissions are calculated to have been four times greater than the carbon dioxide reductions achieved under the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol.
While the HFCs that replaced CFCs do not harm the ozone layer, they do have very high global warming potentials. For example, a molecule of HFC 134a, which is often used in home refrigerators and car air conditioners, has a global warming potential that is 3400 times greater than a molecule of carbon dioxide. HFCs already represent about one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The United States, Canada, and Mexico have been pushing to phase-out HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, which would lead to a 2.2 gigaton reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020, with cuts eventually amounting to the equivalent of 100 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050.
Ironically, carbon dioxide is a cost-effective replacement for HFCs in large-scale refrigeration in grocery stores and warehouses. Amusingly, environmentalist proponents of using carbon dioxide as a coolant coyly refer to it as “natural” refrigerant. In other applications, Dupont and Honeywell have developed a new refrigerant, hydrofluoroolefin (HFO-1234yf), which is a near drop-in replacement for HFC refrigerants in automobile air conditioners. The new HFO refrigerant has a global warming potential of less than one. Of course, transitioning away from HFCs will not be costless, but if man-made global warming turns out to be a problem, reducing their emissions would likely be less costly than cutting the equivalent of carbon dioxide emissions.
Taxpayers Lose $139 Million After Energy Dept. Loan to Electric Car Maker is Sold
The Department of Energy sold part of its $192 million loan to electric carmaker Fisker Automotive on Friday to a Chinese investor. The sale represents yet another loss for American taxpayers over a stimulus-backed “green” initiative—this time to the tune of $139 million.
The Daily Caller has the details:
"Including the $25 million loan sale, the DOE has recovered only $53 million of the original $192 million disbursed — netting taxpayers a $139 million loss.
Fisker was awarded a $529 million loan guarantee by the Obama administration in 2009 to produce a luxury hybrid car, the Karma, which sold for a $103,000 per unit. However, failure to meet Energy Department benchmarks to receive funding resulted in the company losing its loan guarantee in 2011. The company drew down on $192 million before having its federal funding pulled. The Obama administration seized $21 million from the company in April to help repay taxpayers for its loan.
Earlier this year, reports came out that Fisker had violated its loan agreements multiple times before being cut off by the Obama administration in 2011. Bloomberg reported that Fisker’s technical defaults began in 2011 partly due to “lower-than-required earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, and failing to meet a production milestone of at least 11,000 vehicles sold to dealers for an average of $87,500 by Sept. 30, 2011.”
Fisker's collapse closes yet another sad chapter in DOE's troubled portfolio. The jobs that were promised never materialized and, once again, taxpayers are on the hook for the administration’s reckless gamble,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Pa., and House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy, R-Pa., said in a joint statement.
The sale represents the biggest taxpayer loss on a green loan since the Solyndra collapse, which cost taxpayers $528 million.
"Once again, American taxpayers are losing out to foreign investors due to the Obama administration's failed green energy policies," Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said. "Time after time this administration has fumbled the ball with their attempts to pick winners and losers when it comes to American energy.
Green Energy: The Rotary Dial Phone of the Future
The whole idea of green energy—renewable resources—grew out of an energy reality that was much different from today’s. It was in the 1970s, following the OPEC Oil Embargo that solar panels began popping up on rooftops and “gasohol” subsidies were enacted. It was believed that green energy would move the U.S. off of foreign oil and prevent oil from being used as a weapon against us.
Today, that entire paradigm has been upended and OPEC’s power has been virtually neutered by increasing domestic oil production and decreasing gasoline consumption.
Jay Lehr, Heartland Institute science director, likens continuing “as though our new energy riches did not exist” to “ignoring our telecommunication revolution by supporting operator-assisted telephones with party lines.”
Instead of growing our gas, we need to be growing food that can feed a hungry world and balance out the U.S. trade deficit.
In a November 17 editorial, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) perfectly sums up the current renewable resource status: “After 35 years of exaggerations about the benefits of renewable fuels, the industry has lost credibility.” Similarly, on the same day, the Washington Post (WP) went a step further, stating that ethanol “has been exposed as an environmental and economic mistake.”
It seems that ethanol is an idea whose time has come—and gone.
Mandated for blending into America’s gasoline supply in 2007 through the Energy Security and Independence Act, ethanol now has an unlikely coalition of opponents—including car and small-engine manufacturers, oil companies and refiners, and food producers and environmental groups.
A national movement is growing and calling for the end of the ethanol mandates that, according to the WSJ, have “drained the Treasury of almost $40 billion” since the first gasohol subsides were enacted in 1978. Realize the word “Treasury,” used here, really means “taxpayer.”
“At the end of 2011, the ethanol industry lost a $6 billion per year tax-credit subsidy,” the WP points out. But the mandate for the American consumer to use ethanol remains through what Senator David Vitter (R-LA) calls: “a fundamentally flawed program that limps along year after year.”
Imagine the surprise, given that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asserts: “Biofuels are a key part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, helping to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, cut carbon pollution and create jobs,” when, on November 15, the EPA gave a nod toward market and technological realities and, for the first time, proposed a reduction in the renewable volume obligations—below 2012 and 2013 levels.
On a call with reporters, a senior administration official explained: “While under the law volumes of renewable fuel are set to increase each year this unanticipated reduction in fuel consumption brings us to a point where the realities of the fuel market must be addressed to properly implement the program.”
The WP describes the problem: “Mixing more and more ethanol into a fixed or shrinking pool of fuel would bump up against the capacity of existing engines to burn it, as well as the capacity of the existing distribution network to pump it.” It states: “The downward revision of roughly 3 billion gallons is the first such reduction since Congress enacted the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2007.”
The EPA’s decision is lauded by AAA President and CEO Bob Darbelnet: “The EPA has finally put consumers first.” He said the targets in the 2007 law “are unreachable without putting motorists and their vehicles at risk.”
The November 15 announcement has even received rare bipartisian support. In a joint statement, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and ranking member Henry Waxman (D-CA) praised EPA’s decision to cut into the biofuels mandate next year. “As our white papers and hearings made clear, the status quo is no longer workable,” Upton said. “Many of the issues raised by EPA, stakeholders, and consumer advocates are now reflected in the agency’s proposed rule.” Both suggested the committee would continue to examine possible legislative changes to the overall mandate.
The ethanol lobby is not so enthusiastic. “Despite a lack of demand,” states the WSJ, it “wants government to force a blend of E15 or higher on millions of consumers and force car makers to adapt their fleets to a fuel that offers less octane per mile traveled and no environmental benefit.”
Brooke Coleman, Advanced Ethanol Council executive director, expressed the industry’s disappointment: “While only a proposed rule at this point, this is the first time the Obama administration has shown any sign of wavering when it comes to implementing the RFS.”
Coleman added: “What we’re seeing is the oil industry taking one last run at trying to convince administrators of the RFS to relieve the legal obligation on them to blend more biofuel based on clever arguments meant to disguise the fact that oil companies just don’t want to blend more biofuel. The RFS is designed to bust the oil monopoly. It’s not going to be easy,” To which, Taylor Smith, Heartland Institute policy analyst, quipped: “The renewable fuel industry has reacted to EPA’s announcement as if something big has been taken away from them, when technically nothing has been taken away from them, just less will be given to them in the future. The oil industry’s heavy lobbying may be blamed for EPA’s announcement, but ethanol’s failure to lower CO2 emissions or reduce oil use or oil imports since the law was passed has just as much if not more to do with it.”
Ethanol is setback.
While the ethanol mandate hasn’t been eliminated, the administration has wavered and has given a nod toward “market and technological reality.” Likewise, those of us opposed to government mandates and subsidies were handed a small victory in Arizona when, on November 14, the commissioners tipped their hand by setting a new direction for solar energy policy. In a 3-2 vote, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) took a step and added a monthly fee onto the utility bills of new solar customers to make them pay for using the power grid.
While the ACC decision didn’t make national headlines, as the EPA decision did, it has huge national implications.
The issue is net-metering—a policy that allows customers with solar panels to receive full retail credit for power they deliver to the grid. Supporters of the current policy—including President Obama—believe that ending it “would kill their business.” Opponents believe it “unfairly shifts costs from solar homes to non-solar homes.”
The ACC vote kept the net-metering program, but added a small fee that solar supporters call “troubling.” Officials for SolarCity and SunRun—companies that install solar arrays—have reportedly said: “The new fees mean fewer customers will be able realize any savings.”
“What amounts to a $5 charge is a big hit to the solar industry,” said Bryan Miller, SunRunvice president for public policy and power markets. “In our experience, you need to show customers some savings.”
Considering that Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) wanted to cut the rate paid to customers with solar and wanted a much larger fee added, the ACC decision might not seem like a victory. In fact, the solar supporters called it a victory for their side, claiming “policymakers in Arizona stood up for its citizens, by rejecting an attempt from the state’s largest utility to squash rooftop solar.” But that’s not the full story.
The new fee passed 3-2—which might sound like a narrow margin. However, the two “no” votes, voted “no” because each believed the fee should be higher—meaning that all five commissioners wanted a fee added (four of the five had previously indicated that they were ready to add fees as high as $50 a month). Additionally, the fee is only in place until the next rate case that will be filed in June of 2015. Plus, a clause was added that allows the commission to adjust the charge annually. After December 31, solar customers will be presented with a document making it clear that the fees they pay the utility may increase.
James Montgomery, RenewableEnergyWorld.com associate editor, reported that the Alliance for Solar Choice representative, Hugh Hallman, acknowledged that there is a cost-shift that the solar sector needs to address. In the ACC case, it was the solar industry that proposed the fee—even thought it had “bitterly” fought any new fees. The Arizona Republic coverage of the vote states: “The solar industry offered the $5 compromise as it faced the reality that the commissioners appeared poised to enact even higher fees closer to what APS requested.” And adds: “The meeting appeared to be going against the solar industry.”
Commissioner Brenda Burns, who was one of the “no” votes because she wanted higher fees, called out the Arizona Solar Energy Industries Association over a statement made in a letter claiming that solar customers used their own money to install solar at no cost to their neighbors. She noted: “Solar customers got up-front incentives to pay for their solar panels until they expired in October. Those incentives came from other customers and ran into the thousands of dollars for many solar users. APS ratepayers paid more than $170 million in cash incentives,” she said. “It is a fact, and we shouldn’t ignore the fact.”
The ACC’s process pointed out the customers’ savings that $170 million in cash incentives got them could be “largely or entirely wiped out” with a $5 fee. It solidified that there is cost-shifting taking place—which the industry has denied. And, it set up larger fees and potential credit adjustments in the near future.
Rhone Resch, Solar Industries Association president/CEO, called the ACC decision “precedent setting action.” There are a number of other state commissions currently reviewing net-metering policies.
Renewable energy has suffered a setback in both the EPA ethanol decision and the ACC solar decision. Will wind be next?
On November 14, fifty-two Congressmen signed a letter, organized by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), calling for the end of the wind production tax credit (PTC). In the letter addressed to Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, they point out that the PTC, which was scheduled to end on December 31, 2012, was extended “during the closing hours of the last Congress,” as a part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA). Not only was it extended, but it was enhanced by modifying the eligibility criteria. Originally, wind turbines needed to be “placed in service” by the end of the expiration of the PTC to qualify for the tax credit. Under the ATRA, they need only to be “under construction” to qualify.
The letter points out: “If a wind project developer merely places a 5% deposit on a project initiated in 2013, it will have at least until 2015 and possibly 2016 to place the project in service and obtain the PTC. That means that a wind project that ‘begins construction’ in 2013 could receive subsidies until 2026.”
Like ethanol and solar, “the growth in wind is driven not by market demand, but by a combination of state renewable portfolio standards and a tax credit that is now more valuable than the price of the electricity the plants actually generate.”
Earlier this month, more than 100 organizations—including the two for which I serve as executive director—sent a letter to Congress calling for them to allow the PTC to expire as scheduled. This letter states “after 20 years of preferential tax treatment,” wind energy “remains woefully dependent on this federal support” and calls for “energy solutions that make it on their own in the marketplace—not ones that need to be propped up by the government indefinitely.”
Both of these actions come at a time when wind energy is suffering some embarrassing setbacks of its own.
On November 20, the sixth GE 1.6 megawatt wind-turbine blade in 17 months broke off. Three “incidents” have taken place in Illinois (most recently on November 20), two in Michigan (November 12), and one in New York (November 17). The blades weigh about 20,000 pounds and are about 160 feet long. These six cases are called “rare” and “isolated” but there are hundreds of the same GE turbines in the same industrial wind parks where the blades broke off. One can’t help but wonder which turbine will “crash to the ground” tomorrow?
Reports indicate that so far, “no one was injured.” However, locals have reported shrapnel from the blade break has been found more than 1500 feet away.Setbacks for turbine installations are 511 feet from roads and only 700 feet from property lines, so the possibility of somebody getting killed is a real probability.
Note: The North American Wind Power story on the Michigan failures, states: “GE’s 1.6-100 is one of North America’s most sought-after turbines.” Woe to the person who has a different manufacturer’s turbine nearby if these are the “most sought after.”
While, to date, no one has been killed by a wind-turbine blade, plenty of birds—including federally protected birds, such as bald eagles—have been killed. On November 22, the first-ever criminal enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for unpermitted avian takings at wind projects was settled. Duke Energy agreed to pay fines, restitution, and community service totaling $1 million and was placed on probation for five years.
The EPA finally saw some sense when it announced the reduction in the amount of ethanol that refiners are required to blend into gasoline in 2014. The ACC signaled a change in ratepayer compensation for solar energy. Will Congress show similar wisdom and allow the wind tax credit to expire at the end of 2013?
These mandates and tax credits are remnants of an outdated energy policy that is akin to “ignoring our telecommunication revolution by supporting operator-assisted telephones with party lines.” America’s energy paradigm has changed and our energy policies need to keep up and be revised to fit our new reality.
AGREEMENT MAY END GERMANY’S GREEN ENERGY SHIFT
It is only one sentence in the coalition agreement, but it could mean the end of Germany’s green energy shift (Energiewende). The Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD) want to force the renewable industry to pay for conventional back-up energy generation.
Almost unnoticed by the public, Federal Environment Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) and North Rhine Westphalia’s Prime Minister Hannelore Kraft (SPD) have agreed upon on a passage in the Energy chapter of the draft coalition agreement that could ensure the end of the green energy transition and seal the fate of the renewable energy industry. “This is massive,” is the comment even in government circles. The decisive statement has allegedly been included in the draft contract under pressure from the bosses of RWE and E.on, Peter Terium and John Teyssen.
The renewable energy lobby has not even noticed the attack on its core business. The decisive statement can be found in line 259 of the 11 November draft agreement. It says: “We will examine whether large producers of electricity from renewable sources must guarantee a base load portion of their maximum feed in order to contribute to supply security.”
This refers to the cardinal problem of solar and wind energy, the intermittency of power generation that depends on the weather. The year has 8,760 hours; wind turbines, however, only produce for 1,530 hours at full power, photovoltaic systems even just for 980 hours. To make matters worse, no one knows in advance when green electricity is fed into the grid, and when it’s not available.
The proposal by Altmaier and Kraft boils down to a requirement for operators of wind and solar power to take out a form of insurance. In principle, they must guarantee the supply of the kilowatt hours usually provided by their systems, regardless of whether the wind blows or the sun is shining. However, this is only possible for wind and solar systems by guaranteed power of conventional power plants. This way, coal or gas power plants would be brought back into the business – and the green power producers would have to pay for it. They would be forced to do business with RWE and Co.
The business model of renewable energy operators would be destroyed. This is made clear by a simple calculation: the cost of conventional power plant capacity in Europe is typically estimated at 60 Euros per kilowatt. Since solar energy systems need the back-up only for about 1,000 hours per year, this would result in a kilowatt-hour price of approximately six cents for the insurance. An operator of solar power systems would have to pay this amount for every kilowatt hour generated by himself to the operators of a coal or gas power plant, so that they hold up the necessary safe plant capacity.
Part of the legally guaranteed EEG feed-in tariff, which has the objective to promote green electricity, would end up with the operators of conventional power plants in this way. It is such a big amount that one could no longer make any profit with green electricity. If they had to shoulder the burden, the development of renewable energies would come to an end – and so would the green energy transition.
Operators of onshore wind turbines would be charged for the usual hours at full load with less than four cents per kilowatt hour. The feed-in tariffs for new wind turbines is currently around nine cents. Take away four cents for back-up and the wind operator would be left with five cents per kilowatt hour. For this amount, however, nobody is building a wind turbine. The green energy transition would be killed instantly. Instead, RWE and Co. could breath again. It cannot be ruled out that their current search for a new corporate image would be undermined as a result.
Whether it will actually get that far is uncertain. After all, the formulation in the draft coalition agreement includes three vague concepts. Firstly, the matter should only be “examined”. Secondly, only “large” green power producers should be obliged, if at all. And thirdly, the back-up insurance should be organized only for a proportion of the base load. Disaster is looming but there is still hope.
The mere fact that the coalition partners are flirting with the idea of promoting old energy at the expense of new one is a revelation. It shows how much the CDU and the SPD are now distancing themselves from the green energy transition.
For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.
Preserving the graphics: Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere. But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases. After that they no longer come up. From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site. See here or here