Posts Tagged ‘energy’

Can you guess the source of this famous phrase?  Congrats, Family Feud.  The show has had many hosts over the years, but did you know Richard Dawson was the first and longest host of the show?  Depending on your age you know of Dawson or you caught reruns on the Game Show network (it’s not in the basic cable package); this week Dawson passed away and many will remember him as the kissing host that made housewives and contestants blush.

Dawson doing this thing.

Now that you’re caught up on the history of Family Feud, The Associated Press released survey findings this week from a AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll that shows Americans are more interested in reducing their energy bills and energy use than taking a vacation. This could be a result of more families across the U.S. facing new hardships, but the realization that being energy-efficient can save people money is excellent.  The results found that nearly 9 in 10 people said they had taken some action in the last year to save energy (that’s music to my ears).  Smaller steps, such as turning off the lights, turning down the heat, installing more energy-saving appliances and driving less, were the more common ways respondents said they chose to reduce energy in the last year.  Small steps can have huge savings.  My own sister simply unplugged all the electronics when they were not in use in my family’s house for one month and saved $100!  Now it’s a common habit.  Renewable energy from our land’s resources such as wind and solar are increasingly becoming more popular (stay tuned on a post for affordable solar panels), and can be a great source of energy because they won’t run out, such as natural gas or crude oil.  Small steps go a long way, especially when everyone is doing it.  Cheers.

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Today’s post is leading you to another post (read me!), a post by former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.

One tough cookie, Jennifer Granholm.

A fiery force of female, Ms. Granholm makes a strong case directed at Speaker John Boehner for the continuation of the wind production tax credit set to expire at the end of this year (for a full list of credits expiring at this year’s end, see my previous post “Year of the Tax“).  She takes a direct swing at Boehner, noting that his state of Ohio “saw a whopping 900 percent growth for new installations of wind power in 2011.”  She adds that “more than 50 manufacturing companies for wind components are located [in Ohio], and the industry supports thousands of Ohio jobs.”  It’d sure be a shame to loses the 37,000 jobs the wind sector is bringing to the table, especially since Congress claims to be all about job creation and growth.

Granholm doesn’t just open up on Boehner, though; she throws some punches at the Republican party more broadly.  My favorite: she makes the stinging observation that Republicans, despite their rhetoric, have been picking energy “winners and losers.” She asks, “How is it that they can vote to extend tax credits for oil but not for wind?”

Great question, Jen.  When you get an answer, give us a holler.  We’d be curious as to the answer.

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At four different sites along the Gulf of Mexico sit millions of barrels of petroleum. Oil, if you will, locked away for a rainy day. At last count the number was 695.9 million barrels of the black gold, enough to last the U.S. about 34 days at current levels of consumption.

That’s what it is. The question is, should we use it?

You needn’t be a daily driver to know that gas prices have lately been creeping up. On the one hand, this sort of thing happens occasionally, and isn’t such a huge deal. The speculators drive up the global cost of oil and companies like Shell, Exxon or Texaco, to name three, pass along the heightened cost to we consumers. Get used to it. On the other hand, though, it can be a major problem, especially when you consider that people have no choice but to spend more of their paychecks on gas, which sucks valuable disposable income from reviving the economy in more effective ways. So, if you’re President Obama eyeing reelection nine months from now, alarms in the White House may well be going off.

Congressional Democrats have begun asking Obama to open part of the SPR to alleviate prices at the pump. The matter is more a political issue than an economic one. Sure our economy is on stronger footing than it was a year ago: unemployment is tantalizingly close to sub-8.0 range and manufacturing is slowly bouncing back. Odds are heightened fuel costs won’t plunge us back into another Great Recession. But the problem is that if gas prices hit a record high this summer, which they’re on par to do, the issue becomes a political football to be picked up by Republicans. “Look what Obama did! Record high gas prices! Elect us instead!” A flimsy argument on its merits, but if you’re a voter feeling the pinch, it’s an argument you’d likely find pretty persuasive.

The more existential question is whether the SPR should be used for such instinctive crises. When it was created under the Energy Policy Conservation Act in 1975, its intended purpose was to counter “severe supply interruptions,” which seems to put the bar pretty high. International war. Natural disasters impeding new production. Things like that. Flinching and turning on the spigot the moment gas prices top $3.70 seems a bit more reflexive. And there’s a compelling reason not to: once gas prices fall again, if they ever do, the SPR will need to be replenished, which essentially keeps demand higher than supply, pushing prices upward again.

In our humble opinion, some of us here at Spinach HQ vote no. Sure prices are high, but if we go clawing into our survival kit every time we scrape our knee, how prepared will be when we actually break our leg? The obvious answer, of course, is not very.

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And it’s “back to reality, back to life…” .  Actually, before we get back to our environmental reality, whatever that may be, let’s take a detour to the Old Line State where the Maryland House of Delegates approved a same-sex marriage bill!  Wahoo!  Finally, a very blue state is coming around to providing equal status under the law.  Let’s make it happen, Governor O’Malley, let’s make it happen. And, we are back to being better than New Jersey.

All right, I’ll leave it at that.  You didn’t come to here to get some yummy rainbow sherbet, you came for green goodness.  So I am here to provide.

And for those of you who took the time to enter into Paul Kingsnorth’s mind, I am here to give you a little lift.  For those of you who slacked and didn’t take the time, I am here to also give you lift (although you will probably be lifted a bit higher than the Kingsnorth clan because you didn’t damper your spirits by immersing into and reflecting on the sad state of environmental affairs). Because let’s face it, whereever you were at the past couple of hours or days, this news will be good news.  That is, unless, you were caught up making sure that you got to keep an extra twenty dollars in your pocket each month between now and the end of the year.  In that case, enjoy your victory and don’t rub it in our faces.  Because we enviros got a little joy of our own this week.

Between the back and forth headline drama about the payroll tax extension (for those of you who read the normal news) or the underneath the latest anti-environmental scandal (see the Heartland Institute—yeah, and you thought Bill Gates was such a saint after Foxconn showed how black the soul of Steve Jobs actually was…), there was a small, but notable headline about a climate change effort that is slowly gaining some steam. 

This week, the United States, through Hillary Clinton and the Department of State, joined a coalition of five other nations to combat some of the short-lived, but high global warming potential, greenhouses gases.  This coalition, called the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, is run by the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) and includes the countries of Canada (shocking, I know), Mexico, Sweden, Bangladesh, and Ghana.  In joining, nations are committing to curbing non-carbon greenhouse gas emission such as methane, soot, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), also known as “short-lived climate enforcers.”  There are no hard line numbers; this is just a voluntary, five-year commitment.  Instead of targets, the coalition plans fund education projects and joint public-private efforts to reduce emissions nations to “reduce diesel exhaust, stem the burning of agricultural waste, and capture methane from landfills, coal mines, and natural gas wells,” among other policy initiatives.

You might be asking yourself what good will this do, and I’m glad you pondered this.  These three pollutants are believed to account for approximately 30 to 40 percent of the nearly one degree Celsius rise in global temperatures since the beginning of the 20th century.  Furthermore, this voluntary effort has the potential to slow rising temperatures by up to .5 degrees Celsius.  If you read the Washington Post version, that halt could come as early as 2030; if you read the Scientific American version, it may take an additional 20 years.  And, in case that is not enough, WaPo points out that even the notorious climate change skeptic Senator James Inhofe (R-Ok) gets behind reducing soot.  Just when you and Paul Kingsnorth thought all was lost…

At this point, you might be thinking, “Get your head out of the clouds, optimist.  I’ve seen this before—Copehagen, Cancun, Durban… we’ve produced non-binding agreements and unless we hold people’s feet to the fire, nothing will happen.”  You, my eternally pessimistic friend (is that you, Peter Thiel?), might be correct that I am the queen of wishful thinking.  However, it’s worth noting that we did throw in $12 million for this effort (and by we, I don’t mean we here at Spinach.  We save our big dollars for the craps tables in Vegas). So we’ve got our feet within the vicinity of the fire on this effort.

It’s a small accomplishment relative to a national cap-and-trade policy or a carbon tax, but it’s an accomplishment nonetheless.  So before we get down and think about going out, let’s remember the little things.  Because just like your mother always told you (I know mine did), “Sometimes, it’s the little things that count.”

(Or, for bloggers, it’s the hyperlinks the hyperlinks that count.  And I just rocked the hyperlinks. So show me some love with a comment.)

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It’s been a windy week here for we SpinachHeads. We launched a new feature called “Food Fight” where we duke it out, all taking on the same issue from different perspectives. This week’s topic: how to square wind power’s clean benefits with it’s frequently noisy side effects that drive nearby communities mad.

Now, however, it appears we’ve stumbled upon a solution — a compromise to bridge the gap and appease those whiny townspeople delirious from the humming in their ears.

Pay them. Or better yet, give them ownership over part of the wind project. In 2010, Dutch researchers Fabian David Musall and Onno Kuik ran a study at the Amsterdam Institute of Environmental Studies on wind’s benefits and detriments. The research was based on a survey. One community, Nossen, owned by a major company and another town, Zschadraß, with local ownership. Here’s a quick snapshot of their findings:

The locally owned project had 45 percent of residents holding a positive view toward wind energy, and more of it, in fact. The absentee ownership only acquired 16 percent of residents’ approval.
No doubt easier said than done. But giving communities a share of ownership in local wind projects sure seems one way to make them tolerate those pesky sound effects.

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For those of you who love Disney movies (like yours truly), you may have gotten super excited about my title and thought today’s Spinach post may have something to do with the Genie from Aladdin.

If only it was the Genie making a come back.  Then I could try for my three wishes: one for world peace, one for a silver VW bug, and one for a world powered by renewable energy.

Now that's one sweet ride.

Unfortunately, it looks like it may be a while before my third wish comes true (and I guess number two because, well, the bug is a little expensive for me).

Instead, for the first time in 35 years, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved its first new license for the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant.  After the accident at Three Miles Island in 1978, applications stopped rolling into the NRC.  So the last nuclear power plant to be constructed was TVA’s Watts Bar plant, which started construction in 1973.

That’s right folks (particularly y’all down in Georgia).  Southern Company, the company responsible for bringing this baby to life, will build two nuclear power plants on the Vogtle site just outside of Georgia’s capital, Augusta.  Already $4 billion has been invested in the site; Southern Co. projects costs totaling $13.3 billion.  It should also be noted that Southern obtained a loan guarantee from that infamous DOE loan guarantee program (the same program that financed Solyndra) for $8.3 billion.  Southern applied for their permit in March 2008.  With this approval, they expect to bring the plants online by 2016 or 2017.

It, too, is also blue.

Let the nuclear renaissance begin!  Actually, bringing it back may be a little more challenging than advocates were expecting.   Nuclear has to compete with natural gas, which is currently a hot and cheap commodity.  The cheapness and wide availability has put many planned nuclear projects on the shelf.  Georgia residents also have their own problems to contend with.  As the Washington Post’s Steve Mufson points out Georgia allows their utilities to charge their ratepayers for the costs while construction is ongoing.  Many other states will not allow utilities to pass on the costs until their plants become operational.  Oh, and then there’s still that pesky waste problem with no solution…. So there’s a couple of things to consider here before bring out the champagne and celebrating.

World peace—let’s get a move on, will ya?

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