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Posts from — February 2009

Solar Hyperbole 2009: Don't Forget Enron/Solarex circa 1994

Solar hyberbole is decades old. Inevitably, every few months there are fresh headlines about significant cost reductions, insinuating that the competitive moment of solar panels is arriving. In a recent post at Climate Progress, for example, Joe Romm reports: “Solar prices set to fall by up to 40 per cent by year end.” Google “solar” and “advances” to see what you get for previous years and even decades!

But fossil-fuel technologies have advanced too, and the competitive gap between solar and hydrocarbons for generating electricity remains huge. DOE Secretary Stephen Chu told the New York Times recently that solar technology will have to get five times better than it is today to be part of the energy transformation that he and other alarmists think is necessary.

Why is “free” energy from the sun so expensive? The answer is that [Read more →]

February 28, 2009   8 Comments

Addicting the U.S. to CO2 Cap and Trade

With little fanfare, President Obama is sneaking carbon emission trading in the back door: he’s planning to addict the US to revenues generated by selling carbon permits to fund his expanded healthcare, environmental, and educational agendas.

According to the New York Times:

His administration will attempt to close the large fiscal gap even while starting a major health-care initiative meant to substantially extend coverage; to do so, it foresees increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans and using revenues from a new program: selling carbon credits to manufacturers as part of a cap-and-trade plan meant to slow climate change.

Now we have a time-line. Elsewhere in the Times, it is reported that:

… the 2012 projections include revenues from a source that does not yet exist: a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade system. For that to happen, one has to assume passage of a cap-and-trade bill no later than 2010, unless Obama and the Congress intend to let EPA twist the Clean Air Act into a pretzel, giving them the power to impose a cap-and-trade scheme by fiat, which, as I wrote here is a distinct possibility given EPA’s recent moves. [Read more →]

February 27, 2009   4 Comments

The Mafia Finds Windpower: Report from Italy

So, the bad guys are found in the green business, too. Police in Italy have charged eight people, allegedly with Mafia connections,  for corrupting local politicians in order to get a project for a wind farm in Sicily assigned to companies close to the Mafia. Honest people in the renewable industry, such as Carlo Durante of the Milan-based Maestrale Green Energy, have pointed out that the main reason why the Mafia can play the renewable game is the confusion and uncertainty in the licensing process, which has too many people involved in giving the authorizations and a great degree of arbitrariness. There is more than a grain of truth in this: It doesn’t apply to the renewable business alone, indeed, but it is a general feature of “doing business” in the country, as a World Bank survey demonstrates eloquently. [Read more →]

February 26, 2009   4 Comments

Beware of the New "Limits to Growth" (and looking for ReaganVision?CarterVision)

Government policies that arrest economic recovery and diminish economic growth reduce our carbon footprint. Indeed, human misery and carbon reduction are positively correlated in a growing world where consumers demand red-meat energy–oil, gas, and coal. The Malthusian wing of the Obama Administration knows this, and they might just be hoping that the recession will last long enough so that folks question their long-standing belief of economic growth. Rising expectations among the masses is the bane of interventionists and Malthusians everywhere.

So get ready for the end-of-growth mantra from the Left as time marches on and Obama’s economic recovery plan keeps the economy from recovering. [Read more →]

February 25, 2009   17 Comments

Smart Grid, Dumb Economics

Yesterday, the National Clean Energy Product Summit was held in Washington, DC to discuss the Center for American Progress’ s February 2009 white paper titled “Wired for Progress: Building a National Clean-Energy Smart Grid.”  Participants included Steven Chu, Al Gore, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., T. Boone Pickens, Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and pretty much everyone else who thinks they know a priori how to most efficiently organize and manage the electricity sector.   As one might expect, no good came of it. [Read more →]

February 24, 2009   18 Comments

A Warm Year? Or a Cool Decade?

I was recently pointed to an amusing post by Joe Romm over at Climate Progress last week about the “unprecedented global warming during the past year.” Joe pointed out that the earth had apparently warmed rapidly (“20 times [greater than] what most climate models have projected we should be experiencing”) during the period January 2008 through January 2009.

It turns out that Joe was only joking—not about the temperature rise, but as to whether or not it was comment-worthy.

As I’ll show you, the global temperature behavior during the last year isn’t particularly noteworthy, but that during the past decade or so, it is starting to become interesting. [Read more →]

February 24, 2009   6 Comments

Is Cap-and-Trade Inherently Protectionist?

You might not think so, judging from climate doomsters’ oft-repeated claims that Kyoto-style policies will spur innovation, efficiency, and green-job creation, making us more competitive. Such claims imply that if anyone needs protection, it’s those benighted countries that refuse to embrace the hard-cap, soft-energy-path to a low-carbon future. [Read more →]

February 23, 2009   5 Comments

Countries Buying Foreign Minerals–Don't Sweat The Small Stuff

Recently, there has been renewed concerns about efforts by China to acquire mineral assets overseas, taking advantage of recent company devaluations and their own abundant capital reserves. This is not a new concern, having arisen when Chinese companies began to look overseas for investment opportunities, particularly in the oil market, about a decade ago.

And this dates from nineteenth-century nations seeking to monopolize the whaling industry, to the English government establishing British Petroleum in an effort to avoid reliance on those undependable Americans. (Even the US, fearful of ‘running out’ of oil in the 1920s, established the Naval Petroleum Reserve, which proved useless.)

But there is some fire for all the smoke. [Read more →]

February 22, 2009   No Comments

The Pitfalls in Job Counting ("Green" jobs versus economic jobs)

It’s understandable that this happens during a recession, but nonetheless a very bad trend in policy analysis is the narrowminded focus on jobs per se.  Thus the ~$800 billion spending package is evaluated according to how many jobs it will create or save, rather than according to its promotion of efficient resource allocation.

This focus on employment for its own sake is most evident in the “green jobs” rhetoric.  There are two major problems with the typical claims in this area. [Read more →]

February 22, 2009   3 Comments

Mr. President, How About These Shovel-Ready Projects?

In 2007, U.S. electric power generators had roughly 1 million MW of installed capacity. Almost one third of that capacity was spread over 1,400 coal-fired plants, which in turn generated about half of our electricity.[1] More than 100,000 MW of these coal plants are greater than 30 years old.[2] These plants use about 20–25 percent more fuel and emit even more of the undesirable by-products of coal – sulphur, nitrogen, particulates – than do new plants with state of the art combustion technology and emission control.[3] Replacing these older plants as they are retired from service with newer coal-fired power plants represents the quickest and lowest-cost way to reduce the adverse environmental impacts of current coal-fired power generation. And it does so without government subsidies or any deterioration in the quality of electricity service. [Read more →]

February 21, 2009   12 Comments