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Category — State Energy Issues

Solar Land Blues: The Eco Reality of Dilute Energy

“As citizens, we need to call on our leaders to make thoughtful choices about where to site industrial-scale development and renewable energy projects, and to create a legacy for our national parks and to public lands everywhere.” - Mark Butler, “Saving the Mojave from the Solar Threat,” Los Angeles Times , March 25, 2014. “‘Soft’ energy sources are horribly land intensive…. The greenest possible strategy is to mine and to bury, to fly and to tunnel, to search high and low, where the life mostly isn’t, and to leave the edge, the space in the middle, living and green.” - Peter Huber, Hard Green; Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists (New York: Basic Books, 1999), pp. 107–108.

Hard-green energies (fossil fuels, uranium) have a major ecological advantage over politically-correct soft energy (wind, solar): less infrastructure requirement, including land. This was recognized by the father of energy economics, William Stanley Jevons, in his 1865 tome, The Coal Question. Mainstream environmentalists are waking up to the problems of central-station solar now that they can physically see it and have operational results. California’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) is “the world’s largest gas-fired power plant (largest in physical size, not gas consumption),” said one eco-critic. And now Mark Butler in the Los Angeles Times has blown the whistle on the national showcase of Big Solar (full op-ed below). [Read more →]

April 7, 2014   No Comments

TexasWorld: Freedom, Room for All (a mental experiment)

To illustrate that the world is not in any meaningful way overpopulated, Julian Simon noted that if everyone in the world moved to Texas, each person would still have about 1,800 square feet of living space. Enough room for a family of four to live in an average size house with a front and back yard.

Since Simon made these calculations in The Ultimate Resource 2, the world’s population has grown. Recalculating for a world of 6 billion is 1,500 square feet per person, which still leaves 6,000 square feet for a family of four (a still comfortable 60- by-100-foot lot, with plenty of space for multiple story living).

But what about the roads, parks, lakes, shopping malls, my students ask? If I say everyone in the world could live in Texas, they want to know about the amenities. Yes, the free-market system has an astonishing ability to respond to the unexpected, from everyday shifts in demand to hurricanes and other disasters. But if everyone moved to Texas, could markets coordinate the efforts and ingenuity of millions of entrepreneurs and businessmen in building the necessary infrastructure, homes, apartments, etc.?

Markets provide the information about relative scarcity and prices provide the incentives for millions or billions of people to coordinate their responses. F. A. Hayek’s seminal article, “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” uses a disaster to tell its story of the power of prices and market. It starts with a flood in a copper mine in Chile. [Read more →]

March 21, 2014   2 Comments

Kenneth P. Green: 20 Years in the Energy/Environmental Movement (Part II)

[Editor note: Part I yesterday described Ken Green’s current responsibilities at the Fraser Institute and Canadian energy/environmental issues. Today’s post covers Green’s early interest, education,  and career in environmentalism.]

MR: When did you first become interested in environmental science?

KG: I was always interested in nature as a kid. I remember catching frogs at a nearby golf course when I was 5, and I grew up in California camping in the various state parks, where I was always interested in catching critters and playing with them. Lizards, horned toads, snakes, small rodents, whatever I could catch. I also loved science, and remember the name of my 6th grade science teacher, Mr. Jahn, who made studying science fun.

I used to go out to the Mojave Desert a lot with my mother, who was a real character. She was an amateur “treasure hunter,” and loved prospecting for gold in the rivers and streams of California, as well as out on a placer mining claim we had in the Mojave. I’d tool around on a motorcycle, and do the shoveling for the sluices boxes and dry-washers, she’d pan out the gold, and spend time chatting with friends around the motor home. For a short time, she had a shop that sold prospecting equipment in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles.

Prospecting with my mother would turn out to be influential on the way I came to view environmental policy. My mother was a member of the Prospectors Club of Southern California and hauled me along to meetings with her when I was in my early teens. It was there that I was first exposed to the tension that was growing with environmentalists, who were laboring to ban things like prospecting in state parks, or in areas they viewed as fragile, such as the Mojave.

They were also beginning to push for bans on motor vehicles in parks, and things like that. It was seen as a huge threat in the mining community, and my mother, who absolutely adored the desert (where her asthma eased up and she felt healthier) invited people to the club to speak about the threats that environmentalists posed to prospecting, and to encourage people to write their representatives.

MR: So you were a ‘naturalist’ before the term ‘environmentalist’ began to be used?

KG: I suppose that’s a fair characterization – I was always somewhat fascinated with nature, and I enjoyed watching insects and animals, and speculating about why they did the things they did, wondering how water-striders could walk on water, wondering how desert iguanas could run so fast, that sort of thing. But I did develop some strong environmental beliefs as well – growing up as a kid with asthma in the smoggy San Fernando Valley in California did sensitize me (literally) to the reality of pollution.

MR: And was your mother a naturalist…as well? [Read more →]

March 7, 2014   No Comments

Wind Turbine Bird Killings, Disinformation Continue in California (Golden eagles, bald eagles, and more)

“The grim reality is that fewer than 500 golden eagles remain in California. When will authorities wake up to windpower?”

The golden eagle is a vital species in rapid decline, and most of this demise has been relatively recent. Although it has never been publically acknowledged, the primary reason has been the development of wind energy in the middle of the eagle’s foraging habitats.

Ironically, during this golden eagle population crash, bald eagle populations have increased dramatically because, up to now, their habitats have been spared the ravages of wind development. This too will soon change, however, as wind energy installations are built in their wetland habitats across America.

Missing Studies

Proper studies would easily document and explain the decline of golden eagles. But the studies are not being conducted – deliberately, so as to hide and obfuscate what is happening. The clear history of eagle nesting failures and habitat abandonments near wind projects has been hidden from public view, as wind projects have expanded across California and our western states.

Among the undisclosed impacts are those that occur when adult eagles are killed by a turbine during the egg and downy stages of a nesting cycle. During this critical 8-9 week period, there is a 100% probability of a complete nest failure if one adult eagle is lost. A single parent cannot possibly hunt, incubate eggs, and protect its young from the elements.

This history of golden eagle nesting failures near California wind turbines is never clearly stated, but the evidence is there for anyone who wishes to observe or read about it. Some of this impact is revealed in the last environmental impact documents submitted to support expanding the Shiloh wind project in California’s Montezuma Hills Wind Resource Area, although those documents also suggest that a turbine-related nesting failure recently occurred in this area.

Bald Eagles at Risk

The same fate is coming to our bald eagles. This great bird’s population has been expanding in the wetland habitats of California, and the Sacramento River delta provides good foraging and nesting opportunities for them. Adult bald eagles have been seen near the Montezuma Hills WRA turbines, and a possible (never verified) bald eagle nest site was reported nearby on Grizzly Island. [Read more →]

February 26, 2014   No Comments

California’s Cap-and-Trade Water Proposal: A Planner’s ‘Market’ (Part II: Sky high water auctions)

“The real problem is that the price of water in California, as in most of America, has virtually nothing to do with supply and demand…If water was priced to reflect scarcity, a decrease in supply would lead to an increase in price, and people would demand less… My system is designed to reduce demand rather than cover costs.” – David Zetland, The Water Shortage Myth (Forbes, 2008)

In Part I of this series we discussed how a proposed Drought Environmental Water Market does not meet the criteria of a market nor would the prices produced from such a system reflect Fair Market Value. The proposal for an environmental water market by a group of experts from the University of California, Davis, the Public Policy Institute of California and law schools at the University of California and Stanford (the “U.C. Davis-PPIC Proposal”) would end up double charging farmers for water they already paid for, including $180 million in river restoration fees.

In this second part of the series we discuss the implications of wholesale water auctions currently in vogue in California, ostensibly as a drought relief mechanism.

We previously discussed the eminent domain property appraisal rule called the “Project Influence Rule.” This rule means that any increase or decrease to property values due to a public project must be excluded from any appraisal for Fair Market Value. This rule is typically applied in redevelopment project areas where the upzoning, road improvements and utilities brought about by redevelopment have to be excluded from any property valuation. Appraisers usually control for project influence by searching for sales data outside the defined project area.

Below we will compare agricultural water sales prices from outside the Central Valley to cross check if there is any premium in water prices caused by government withdrawing over half of the supply of farm water to restore “fish flows.” In general, government does not have to pay for an enhancement of private property value it created. This rule should work in reverse when government wants to sell back to farmers water at environmentally-inflated prices. [Read more →]

February 21, 2014   No Comments

California’s Cap-and-Trade Water Proposal: A Planner’s ‘Market’ (Part I)

The U.C. Davis proposal to establish an environmental water market partly induced by environmental regulatory drought does not hold water.  And we find pricing environmental water sales by auctions to reflect inflated non-market prices derived from the “project influence” of inducing a water shortage as a result of the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Project of 2009 …. Nonetheless, we welcome the opportunity to open up a discussion of how markets might alleviate drought hardship on farmers and, wherever possible, on the environment.”

Road sign on rural highway in Kern County, California, erected in 2010:

KERN & KINGS COUNTY FARMS PAID 100%
for their State Water Allocation
but only received

35% in 2008
40% in 2009

50% in 2010
0% in 2014

updated
Farmers Lost Over $200 million on Water Not Delivered!
(up to 2010)

WaterForAll.com – Families Protecting the (Central) Valley.com

With implications for the huge hydropower and natural gas powered market in California, on Feb. 11, 2014, a team of water experts[1] associated with University of California at Davis, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), and the University of California and Stanford law schools, called for the creation of a “special water market.” [Read more →]

February 20, 2014   No Comments

California Energy Update: Part IV

• Effort to Expand California Green Power Mandate to 51% Fails
• Will California’s Green Energy Policies Fail Like Germany’s?
• Three Cities Oppose Gas Powered Plants to Replace San Onofre Nuke Plant
• Scientist Says No Reason to Shut Down San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant
• California Drought Means Less Hydropower and Higher Electricity Prices

Effort to Expand California Green Power Standard to 51% Fails

“Amendments made yesterday to state Assembly Bill 177 clarify that the 33 percent by 2020 current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is intended to be a floor, not a ceiling, for energy procurement. It directs all retail sellers of electricity to adopt a long-term procurement strategy to achieve a target of procuring 51 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by Dec. 31, 2030.”

– State Senator V. Manuel Perez of Imperial County

A key provision in State Assembly Bill 177 sponsored by Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez (Democrat, Coachella), to raise California’s green power mandate from 33% to 51% was opposed by the Large Scale Solar Association, the California Wind Association, ratepayer advocates The Utility Reform Network, and had no support whatsoever from any environmental organization. The reaction may have been driven by the appearance that AB 177 had another agenda: creating a green economy in Imperial County where the unemployment rate still hovers around 26%. Imperial County is in the southwestern corner of California. Its most notable landmark is an agricultural irrigation drain that is so big that it is called the Salton Sea. [Read more →]

January 30, 2014   2 Comments

Citizen Martis to Ohio Lawmakers: Repeal the Renewable-Energy Mandate

[Ed. note: One of the most prolific citizen activists in the windpower-subsidy debate today is Kevon Martis, Director of the Interstate Informed Citizen’s Coalition. His testimony last week before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee, with slight modification, follows.]

Senator Seitz, Vice Chairman LaRose, Ranking Member Gentile and members of the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee, my name is Kevon Martis. I am the volunteer director of the Interstate Informed Citizen’s Coalition, Inc. of Blissfield, MI (IICC), a bipartisan renewable energy citizen’s advocacy group.

In my role as director of IICC, I speak on behalf of the hundreds of Ohio citizens who are living on the front lines of industrial wind development that has directly resulted from the very complicated, highly intrusive mandates of Senate Bill 221 of 2008, which revised

state energy policy to address electric service price regulation, establish alternative energy benchmarks for electric distribution utilities and electric services companies, provide for the use of renewable energy credits, establish energy efficiency standards for electric distribution utilities, require greenhouse gas emission reporting and carbon dioxide control planning for utility-owned generating facilities, authorize energy price risk management contracts, and authorize for natural gas utilities revenue decoupling related to energy conservation and efficiency.

I speak today January 22, 2014, in support of Senate Bill34:

To amend sections 4928.142, 4928.143, 4928.20, 4928.61, 4928.62, 5501.311, and 5727.75 and to repeal sections 4928.64 and 4928.65 of the Revised Code to repeal the requirement that electric distribution utilities and electric services companies provide 25% of their retail power supplies from advanced and renewable energy resources by 2025.

State-level renewable energy mandates like Senate Bill 221 were enacted at a time when natural gas was expensive and projected to climb. With “cap and trade” schemes looming on the federal horizon and non-emitting and fuel price stable nuclear forced to the back bench by green activists, there was apparent wisdom in leading a drive to advanced energy generation.

It is a far different story today. Formerly considered a “no brainer”, one-size-fits-all wind energy mandates are fast falling out of favor across the political spectrum. [Read more →]

January 27, 2014   1 Comment

$5.4 Billion in Solar: California Goes All In

“The government support — which includes loan guarantees, cash grants and contracts that require electric customers to pay higher rates — largely eliminated the risk to the private investors and almost guaranteed them large profits for years to come. The beneficiaries include financial firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, conglomerates like General Electric, utilities like Exelon and NRG — even Google.”

- Eric Lipton and Clifford Krauss, “A Gold Rush of Subsidies in Clean Energy Search,” New York Times, November 11, 2011.

A recent article by Pete Danko, “Solar Power Hitting New Records in California” (Earthechling.com) documents the dramatic growth of solar energy generation facilities in California. Three large-scale solar PV installations recently on-line or underway are: California Valley Solar Ranch; Antelope Valley Solar 1, and Topaz Solar Farm, together representing a nameplate capacity of over 1,000 megawatts (1 gigawatt).

Because of their size and cost, it is worthwhile to take a look at these three facilities in greater detail: [Read more →]

January 13, 2014   13 Comments

Testimony Against Industrial Wind Power (Kevon Martis before the Ohio Senate and House Public Utilities Committees)

“The world of wind energy lobbyists, developers, and their ‘environmental group’ advocates is one in which up is down, black is white, loud is quiet, double talk is the lingua franca, and the U.S. Constitution does not apply.”

Testimony of Kevon Martis Concerning Sub. SB 58 & HN 302, Ohio Senate and House Public Utilities Committees, November 13, 2013.

I would like to thank the committee for this opportunity to testify today. I have a BA in History from the University of Michigan. I have also served as the vice-chairman of the Riga Township planning commission as well as the vice-chairman of the Lenawee County Rural Land Use Committee. I lecture widely across the Michigan on wind-energy zoning matters. I have testified before the Michigan House Energy and Tech committee on energy policy and am a resource for legislators from both sides of the aisle.

As a volunteer ratepayer advocate, I believe I bring a unique perspective on what I will today call the “bizarro world” of industrial wind energy policy. Having been involved with those who are living on the receiving end of wind energy mandates like Ohio’s SB221 or Michigan’s PA295, I am in a position to testify about things that lobbyists roaming the halls of Columbus or Lansing prefer to keep unseen.

As those who testified before me have elegantly demonstrated, the world of wind energy lobbyists, developers, and their “environmental group” advocates is one in which up is down, black is white, loud is quiet, double talk is the lingua franca, and the U.S. Constitution does not apply.

Permit me to share my observations from a front row seat across the rural Midwest over the last 4 years: [Read more →]

January 8, 2014   2 Comments