Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Only in California. The bureaucratic maze there prevents expensive wind-power projects from getting underway

As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger prepares this week to sign into law the nation's most ambitious effort to address global warming, a key component of California's push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- increasing the use of renewable power to create electricity -- has faltered. Despite overwhelming public and political support for renewable power, ratepayer contributions of $319 million, and a 2002 law mandating a dramatic increase in the use of sun and wind to create megawatts, California has boosted its use of renewable energy by less than 1 percent of the state's overall electricity use in the past four years.

In the meantime, Texas has surpassed California as the nation's leader in wind power. PG&E, which ran television commercials in the Bay Area earlier this year promoting its environmentally friendly practices, has actually reduced the amount of renewable power in its portfolio during the past two years. And the world's largest wind-power company -- which is investing $2 billion around the country on wind projects this year and next -- is not spending any of that money in California, complaining that overly complicated and time-consuming regulations are slowing development....

Along the Sacramento River and near the Carquinez Strait in rural Solano County, 100 new wind turbines, standing 250 feet tall, tower over herds of sheep and rolling hills as they quietly spin wind into electricity. Each turbine creates enough power to light more than 750 homes for less than what Californians are paying for electricity from a power plant that produces carbon dioxide and other gases scientists say cause global warming. The new turbines are a rarity in California.

Since the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard went into effect four years ago, requiring utilities to contract for much more renewable power, only 241 megawatts of new projects have been built.... Power developers, regulators and independent observers all complain that the standard the 2002 legislation set up has required years to develop and calls for new projects to clear too many regulatory hurdles. "We like to say this project was built in spite of the RPS, not because of it," said Jim Caldwell, director of regulatory affairs for PPM Energy, which owns the new Solano County wind project. The company bypassed the state's regulatory process and simply built the project without a guarantee that any utility would buy the power. "If we would have gone through the process, we thought we'd never get the damn thing built," Caldwell said. The gamble paid off: The company is selling half of the power generated in Solano County to PG&E, and the rest to other municipally owned utilities.

"It is an extraordinarily complicated process compared to any other state in the country," said Ryan Wiser, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who has studied efforts by 21 states to mandate increases in the use of renewable power. Wiser wrote a paper on California's process titled "Does it Have to be this Hard? Implementing the Nation's Most Complex Renewables Portfolio Standard." Wiser said that here, unlike anywhere else, two state agencies -- the California Energy Commission and the Public Utilities Commission -- have regulatory oversight of renewable projects, forcing developers and utilities to work with two distinct bureaucracies. And each project faces multiple, and sometimes redundant, monthslong proceedings in front of regulators before getting approval, while most other states only require one....

The world's largest wind developer, FPL Energy in Florida, announced earlier this year that it would not propose new wind projects in California during the next two years, even as it invests $2 billion around the country. The company won a bid through the California RPS process in 2004 to add 30 megawatts of wind power to an existing project, but a company official pointed to the project's estimated completion date -- April 2008, four years later -- as an example of why investing in California is difficult. "We are committed to California, but we look at where we can actually move forward and build projects," said Diane Fellman, director of regulatory affairs for FPL Energy.

There are other factors that also have slowed California's progress and have many believing the state will not meet the 2010 deadline. Transmission lines to renewable-rich areas need to be upgraded. Despite more than a decade of discussions on ways to hook up PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric to the windy Tehachapi region in Kern County and a key solar area, the Imperial Valley east of San Diego, the process to build new power lines is still ongoing. And there are questions about whether some of the projects the utilities have selected to pursue are viable. Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric, for example, have signed deals for hundreds of megawatts with an Arizona company that uses a solar technology that has never produced power on a large scale. "There are some real doubts about whether some of the projects will really happen," said Wiser....

Most involved in the energy industry believe a significant increase in wind, solar and geothermal power is possible in California. Renewable energy is incredibly popular -- a Public Policy Institute of California poll earlier this year showed that 83 percent of adults interviewed supported more government spending to boost renewable energy. The state has plenty of sun and wind -- experts suggest the Tehachapi region could generate enough wind power to light 3 million homes. And, with the price of natural gas having tripled in the last few years, wind power is cheaper to produce than electricity supplied by a natural-gas-fueled power plant. "The frustrating thing is this: Of all the places in the country, California is blessed with all kinds of natural resources that we need to produce renewable energy," said Jan Smutny-Jones, executive director of a trade group representing some renewable-power developers. "We're awash in riches. And there does not appear to be any significant political resistance to more renewables. But we're stumbling when it comes to turning all of this into real, steel-in-the-ground projects."

More here


And sea levels are rising despite that! Farewell to simplistic assumptions. Nothing disturbs faith though. To the Warming believers quoted below, it is just a "blip" -- a godawful large blip, though.

Despite the long term warming trend seen around the globe, the oceans have cooled in the last three years, scientists announced today. The temperature drop, a small fraction of the total warming seen in the last 48 years, suggests that global warming trends can sometimes take little dips. In the last century, Earth's temperature has risen about 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.56 degrees Celsius). Most scientists agree that much of the warming in the past 50 years has been fueled by the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities.

This research suggests global warming isn't always steady, but happens with occasional 'speed bumps,'" said study co-author Josh Willis, a researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "This cooling is probably natural climate variability. The oceans today are still warmer than they were during the 1980s, and most scientists expect the oceans will eventually continue to warm in response to human-induced climate change."

Regardless of the cooling trend observed since 2003, average sea levels have continued to rise. The rising of sea level occurs due to the thermal expansion of the oceans from the heating and chunks and runoff from melting ice sheets and glaciers. "The recent cooling episode suggests sea level should have actually decreased in the past two years," Willis said. "Despite this, sea level has continued to rise. This may mean that sea level rise has recently shifted from being mostly caused by warming to being dominated by melting. This idea is consistent with recent estimates of ice-mass loss in Antarctica and accelerating ice-mass loss on Greenland."

In a previous study, researchers reported that in parts of the Antarctic, 84 percent of glaciers have retreated over the past 50 years in response to a warmer climate. But the melting glaciers are not the reason for the cooling. The amount of ice and water from the melting glaciers is very small compared to the overall temperature of the oceans, Willis told LiveScience.

Ocean temperatures have been through dips like this before. There have been substantial decadal decreases, said study co-author John Lyman of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. "Other studies have shown that a similar rapid cooling took place from 1980 to 1983. But overall, the long-term trend is warming."

Determining the amount of heat oceans store is important for determining the amount of total energy absorbed from the sun and energy reflected back. "The capacity of Earth's oceans to store the sun's energy is more than 1,000 times that of Earth's atmosphere," Lyman said. "It's important to measure upper ocean temperature, since 84 percent of the heat absorbed by Earth since the mid-1950s has gone toward warming the ocean. Measuring ocean temperature is really measuring the progress of global warming."

Researchers have not yet identified the cause of ocean cooling in the last three years but hope that further studies will clarify this anomaly. Some say it could be due to events such as volcanic eruptions, but the reasons need to be looked at still, Willis said.


Impoverishing and disruptive effects of land-use restrictions in Britain

Appeasing the property-owning English middle classes, the green lobby, the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the government insists that newly-built housing confine itself to brownfield sites. Britain's antiquated planning system is always absorbing yet more government guidance on housing design, energy use and all the rest. But it gets more Byzantine each year for a reason: to make houses more difficult to build. In particular, the government will not allow working-class people to spread out and invade Britain's green and virgin soil.

The government prefers to cram people it regards as plebs into transport-free cities that are more and more tightly packed. Land must not be claimed, cheaply and easily, from nature. Instead, it must be expensively and with great effort `reclaimed' from horrid, man-made contamination.

As prices for houses around East London's Olympic Village will soon attest, the result is, once again, that the demand for a decent home with reasonable transport links far exceeds supply. It has long been evident that the Thames Gateway area, billed as Europe's largest housing development, will in fact see relatively few new homes built. But it has now become clear that the 40-odd overlapping quangos responsible for the Thames Gateway have, to all intents and purposes, turned it into the London Thames Gateway. An area which was supposed to fan houses out to the east coast will confine them to the east of the nation's capital.

Powered by green dogma, the government's rush for brownfield development is truly zealous. Some 74 per cent of new dwellings in England are now on brownfield land. By reaching this figure, the government is, in 2006, far exceeding its own target for 2008, which was that 60 per cent of new-build should by then be brownfield.

What an achievement! This is a beating of targets of which Joe Stalin would be proud. But through its eagerness to achieve high levels of housing density, the government also fuels the current wave of Malthusian sentiment around the issue of immigration.

As Neil Davenport has pointed out previously on spiked, today's elite outcry over levels of immigration panders to the backward idea that society's problems are caused by there being too many people. But a recent report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a London think-tank, has just highlighted a related but highly important issue. `What will bring the worst of all worlds', its chief executive Douglas McWilliams writes, `is to have the immigration but not the infrastructure, which will condemn all of us to traffic jams, rising house prices and overcrowding in schools, hospitals and elsewhere'.

We can leave Mr McWilliams to his own views on immigration. But his point about infrastructure is absolutely right. In certain local authorities, services such as education and health may well be unprepared for a relatively rapid build-up of local concentrations of immigrants. But in relation to accommodation, it is not the immigrant influx that leads to the perception that Britain is overcrowded and overpopulated, so much as the government's fanatical pursuit of high density in housing - a kind of Brownfield Brutalism that would condemn us all to a nicely designed broom cupboard. I am always suspicious of the view that the white working class feels itself `swamped' by immigrants. But to the extent that towns - Dover, for example - feel this way, it might be apt to blame, not immigrants, but the government's failure to fund expanding infrastructure and greenfield housing.

Ministers fairly crow that the average density being achieved across England is now 42 dwellings per hectare (6). Indeed, Yvette Cooper, minister for housing and planning, has boasted that while densities were `only' 25 homes per hectare in 1997, New Labour can now build 1.1million homes `on less land than the previous government set aside for just 900,000 homes - saving an area of greenfield land greater than the size of Oxford'. But what is a hectare, anyway? It is 10,000 square metres. So 25 dwellings per hectare of land in 1997 = 400sqm for each dwelling, or a land area of 20x20m. And 42 dwellings per hectare in 2006? That's 238sqm for each dwelling - in other words, little more than 15x15m of land.

This is a really drastic reduction in living space - and New Labour has achieved it in just nine years. Today, when so many of New Labour's policies increase urban atomisation and anomie, we are forced into a cheek-by-jowl huddle of smaller and smaller flats, at bigger and bigger prices. And then New Labour has the nerve to turn around and blame a surge of Rumanian criminals as a threat to Britain's social fabric.

Like Gordon Brown's sale of public sector assets, and like green efforts to conserve energy, the rush for brownfield land in fact produces very few savings - in this case, of greenfield land. Why? For two reasons. First, Britain is already predominantly green. Brownfield land is so modest an expanse that even the tightest patterns of house-packing can, at best, free up little land for greenfield status. Second, the government, not content with restricting people's ability to find housing, has anyway long been busy creating new green pastures.

Take Yvette Cooper's saving achieved by going brownfield - an area `the size of Oxford'. That turns out to be a saving of 3,300 hectares; in other words, a colossal 0.01 per cent of the land cover of Great Britain. On top of that, the government has already been adding more land for the Green Belt: a total of 19,000 hectares between 1998 and 2003. A further potential 12,000 hectares of Green Belt has been proposed in emerging development plans.

As it happens, 19,000 hectares is an area the size of Liverpool. So the Green Belt, which we are always being told is on the point of being `concreted over', has actually undergone an expansion that is modest, but much bigger than Cooper's Oxford-sized `saving' of greenfield land through Brownfield Brutalism. It bears remembering that the land cover of Great Britain is 23.5million hectares, used in 2002 as follows:

-- intensive agricultural land - 10.8million hectares, or 45.96 per cent;

-- semi-natural land - 7.0million hectares, or 29.78 per cent;

-- woodland - 2.8million hectares, or 11.91 per cent;

-- settled land accounts for 1.8million hectares, or 7.65 per cent;

-- water bodies - 0.3million hectares, or 1.28 per cent;

-- sundry other categories - 0.8million hectares, or 3.42 per cent.

If settlements are added to the `sundry' component (largely transport infrastructure such as roads and railways), then built-up Great Britain consists of about 2.3million hectares, or just 10 per cent of the land available. But in terms of `settled' houses and workplaces, the figure is actually well under 10 per cent - it's 7.65 per cent. In terms of housing alone, it must be heading towards five per cent, or lower, perhaps. But there is more. It turns out that more than half the land cover of England - 55.2 per cent of the most urbanised part of the UK - is officially `designated' as more or less untouchable: it is of special scientific interest, a special protection area, a special area of conservation, an area of outstanding natural beauty, a National Park, or a part of the Green Belt. In fact, among countries belonging to the Organisation of Economic and Commercial Development (OECD), the UK as a whole has about twice as high a proportion of protected land as the average. Everything is already being done, and then some, to ring-fence the pastoral idyll of the property-owning classes.

We can now see just how immature Ruth Kelly's call for a `mature' debate about immigration really is. Even when we omit Dartmoor, Snowdonia and other great swathes of beauty, Britain has room enough for immigration. But in practice, government policy continues to ensure that housing is both a growing symptom of the British economy's narcissism, and something that is powerfully hard for anyone - immigrant or not - to get hold of. The British economy is narcissistic because its whole focus is on face, not on the creation of genuine wealth. `Look at me!', cries the City to international money capital: `Come into my parlour.' `Look at me!', cries Britain's housing stock: `I am an ageing legacy of the past, but the government guarantees that I will always cost you more and more money.' ....

For the middle classes and a fair bit of the working class, housing has become that much more central to students, newlyweds and parents. For fortysomething parents, indeed, `parenting' is an issue that, to a large degree, revolves around housing. And as if that were not enough, Blairite ex-minister Stephen Byers has confirmed the centrality of housing to family discourse in the UK by setting a hare running about the abolition of inheritance tax, most of which revolves around houses. Alasdair Darling, tipped as Brown's successor at the Treasury, has repudiated Byers. But whatever the outcome, Britain's preoccupation with the money tied up in housing promises only to grow more intense.

Britain's problem is too few houses, not too many immigrants. Nowadays, all roads lead to housing - even if none of them are real roads. In more than seven years, from 1997 to 2004, New Labour has managed to build just 145km of new motorways. It has blighted rural areas with a colossal 400km, or 250 miles, of A roads. And in urban areas it has managed just 99km of A roads. No wonder people feel congested in cities, and cut off in rural areas. The genuine wealth that investment in new infrastructure represents is not part of Gordon Brown's brief. He would rather delude himself, and us, that he is taking what he calls `tough' choices; choices, he says, that will `safeguard stability'. His choices are not tough. They are all too easy. Sooner or later, Brown's choices will bring financial and social instability


A Greenie dictatorship?

Every property in the Waverley local government area in Sydney [Australia] may be required to install solar roof panels under a plan being considered by the council to make it "a world leader in climate change solutions". The council's sustainability committee "will explore ways to integrate key environmental targets and initiatives throughout the organisation and the Waverley community". The committee will comprise councillors and experts on building sustainability and climate change.

The Mayor of Waverley, Mora Main, put up the idea in a mayoral minute, unanimously supported by councillors, directing the committee to advise on maximising solar energy. "Moving towards a 'solar Waverley' may soon see all our rooftops sporting solar panels," she said. The committee will advise on:

* A brief for a study to assess and characterise the total potential for rooftop solar energy in Waverley.

* The application of solar hot water and space heating, passive solar design and photovoltaics to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

* Changes to the council's planning rules to prevent overshadowing of useable solar-capture space on neighbouring structures.

* Regulation to ensure development applications maximise the uptake of solar power.

The council says each municipality has a responsibility to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. "As developments in solar technology take it ever closer to cost competitiveness with coal, distributed renewal energy becomes a realistic component of Australia's energy supply," it says in a background paper.

Waverley's move will not find favour with everyone. The Productivity Commission recommended in a report on energy efficiency last year that federal, state and territory governments and the Australian Building Codes Board should examine ways to stop local governments creating variations in minimum energy efficiency standards for buildings. The Federal Government has supported this finding. "Determining effective energy efficiency requirements for houses requires specialist knowledge that is more likely to be available to national bodies than to local governments," the commission said. "The effects of such requirements are predominantly experienced outside of the local government area. In addition, the costs associated with local government area-based variations in energy efficiency standards are potentially higher than for state and territory-based ones. This is because they can cause a higher degree of regulatory fragmentation and uncertainty."

In an earlier report on building regulation the commission warned against the erosion of national consistency of building regulation by local governments through their planning approval processes. A feature of an agreement being developed between the federal, state and territory governments on the building code will - "as far as practicable" - restrict any changes to the code to those arising from geographical, geological and climate factors. The agreement provides for state and territory governments to seek similar commitments from local governments. The Federal Government does, however, recognise the role of local government in developing and trialling new approaches to address climate change "in a context of cost-benefit assessment".

Source. For more Greenie nuttiness from Waverley, see here or here


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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