Breakthrough! Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute Discuss “Climate McCarthyism” And Why They Now Support Nuclear Power

By Robert Bryce, Energy Tribune

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger spent most of their careers working for environmental groups as political strategists. Frustrated by the movement’s focus on pollution regulations rather than public investment in technology, they broke from the pack by writing a manifesto in 2004 called “The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World.” The piece argued that “issue group liberalism” was declining and that “the environmental community’s narrow definition of its self-interest leads to a kind of policy literalism that undermines its power.”

A year later, after Robert F. Kennedy Jr. published an opinion piece in the New York Times arguing that wind power developers should not be allowed to install offshore wind turbines near the Kennedy family’s famous luxury compound at Hyannisport, on Cape Cod, Nordhaus and Shellenberger responded with a broadside published in the San Francisco Chronicle, which called Kennedy’s opposition to the wind farm an example of a “a worldview born among the privileged patricians of a generation for whom building mansions by the sea was indistinguishable from advocating for the preservation of national parks.”

In 2007 Houghton Mifflin published Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility, which Time magazine called “prescient” and Wired said “could be the most important thing to happen to environmentalism since ‘Silent Spring.’”

In 2008, the two men published an article in the Harvard Law and Policy Review called “Fast, Clean, & Cheap.” The gist of their argument is this: making hydrocarbons more expensive is wrongheaded because it will inevitably spawn a backlash from consumers. The only way to create a long-term change in our energy infrastructure is to make alternative energy sources cheaper “through major investments in technology innovation and infrastructure.” Their solution: the governments of the world must “make large, long-term investments in technology innovation.”

Later that year Time named the duo “Heroes of the Environment,” for their writings.Nordhaus and Shellenberger now head the Breakthrough Institute, an Oakland-based non-profit which says that it is aimed at “creating a new progressive politics, one that is large, aspirational, and asset-based.”

Their break with conventional thinking has led to some vicious personal attacks from one of the Democrats’ leading operatives, Joe Romm, a blogger on climate issues. In May he said the two were on a “disinformation rampage.” In June, Romm claimed that they were “lying about Obama,” that they are publishing “deeply flawed analyses” of climate legislation, and that “they are no longer credible sources.”

In early November, Nordhaus and Shellenberger struck back with a series of blog posts on “Climate McCarthyism.” They also wrote a long analysis, “Apocalypse Fatigue,” of declining public belief in global warming for Yale Environment 360. And earlier this week they released a 200-page analysis of Asian dominance of clean tech, “Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giants.”I interviewed the two via email with Nordhaus and Shellenberger divvying up the responses.

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute

RB: What motivated you guys to write the Climate McCarthyism series?

Ted: In the past we had only responded to Romm when he attacked us directly. The truth is that for months we kept trying to avoid the guy. We’d put out an analysis of climate legislation and instead of actually taking issue with the content Romm would attack us personally. We’d respond by saying things like, “No, we’re not global warming deniers or delayers,” duh.

After he started going after reporters and others we started saying to ourselves, “Somebody really ought to stand up to that guy,” but nobody ever did. So when he went after Keith Kloor — a guy we’ve never met but who was the editor of Audubon Magazine for eight years – and called him a “trash journalist,” we knew somebody had to say something. Romm was engaging in character assassination to intimidate the press corps, and it was starting to work.

RB: Your critics say that you guys like getting into these high-profile fights.

Michael: Funny, those critics, almost all of them prominent liberal green bloggers have had nothing to say over the last two years as Joe Romm made his name blatantly slandering our reputations and those of many others. Now that we are fighting back and calling out Romm’s tactics for what they are, McCarthyite, they claim we’re opportunists. The truth is they’ve been complicit in Romm’s McCarthyism and they know it.

RB: The series started by describing Romm’s use of McCarthyite like guilt-by-association and misrepresentation – you quote Romm calling Roger Pielke, Jr., one of your senior fellows, to the fictional murderer, the “talented Mr. Ripley.” But the third and fourth posts, “The Hyper-Partisan Mind,” and “The Headquarters,” put Romm in a wider context.

Ted: Romm is a particularly vitriolic manifestation of the hyper-partisanship of American political life. We pointed to evidence that America is more divided along partisan lines than it has been since the Civil War Reconstruction. Romm tries to pass himself off as an independent, nonpartisan expert. In fact, he is an employee of a highly partisan war room, the Center for American Progress, and he routinely compares liberals, greens and Democrats he disagrees with to Republicans.Michael: On climate, most Democratic, green and liberal partisans have taken an apocalyptic view of global warming ever since the Gore movie in 2006, and they’ve insisted that the solution be just efficiency and renewables through emissions regulations. In response, most Republicans and conservatives dug in their heels even further, resisting any action whatsoever as harmful to the economy.

Read more here.

All Pain, No Gain

By Paul Driessen, Nov 23, 2009  

Restricting and taxing energy use to prevent speculative climate disasters would be disastrous. “Electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket” under cap-and-trade,” President Obama has admitted. “Industry will have to retrofit its operations. That will cost money, and they will pass that cost on to consumers.” Cap-and-trade, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) eagerly observed, is “the most significant revenue-generating proposal of our time.”

Not one congressman even read the numbingly complex 1427-page Waxman-Markey global warming bill, before the House of Representatives voted on it. A new version of the Kerry-Boxer Senate bill provides no details about how carbon allowances would be allocated under a mandatory emissions reduction program.

The process recalls Churchill’s description of Russia: “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Here we are dealing with estimates wrapped in assumptions inside speculation – based on assertions that Earth faces a manmade climate disaster. The only thing known with certainty is that cap-tax-and-trade will inflict intense pain for no environmental gain – on regions, states, communities, industries, companies and families.

It is a complicated regulatory scheme that penalizes businesses and people who use electricity and other forms of energy derived from oil, gasoline, natural gas and coal. Cap-tax-and-trade would place limits on how much carbon dioxide America would be allowed to generate, and the limits would decrease drastically over time.

Companies and utilities would be issued permits, saying how much CO2 they can put into the air each year. If they cannot stay within that limit, they will have to switch to wind, solar, nuclear or geothermal energy (assuming those sources can be built, in the face of regulation and litigation); capture the CO2 and store it somewhere (via technologies that do not yet exist); or buy more permits from US or foreign companies that don’t need as much energy (through a new international financial, trading and carbon derivatives market). Cap-and-trade restricts and taxes hydrocarbon energy use.

Because 85% of America’s energy is hydrocarbons, prices will soar for everything we heat, cool, drive, make, grow, eat and do. The impacts will be especially painful in scores of states that depend on coal for 50-98% of their electricity, refine petroleum for the nation’s vehicles, and manufacture products that improve, enhance and safeguard our lives. The complex system will be administered by profit-seeking carbon management and trading firms, regulated and policed by thousands of government bureaucrats, and paid by every family, driver, business, school district, hospital, airline, traveler and farmer.

The ostensible goal is to stabilize planetary temperatures, climates and weather patterns that have never been stable, by slashing carbon dioxide emissions 83% below 2005 levels by 2050. The last time America emitted that amount of CO2 was 1908! Once we account for the far lower population, manufacturing, transportation and electrification levels of a century ago, 2050 carbon dioxide emissions would have to equal what the United States emitted after the Civil War! That would require monumental changes in lifestyles and living standards.

It would mean politicians and unelected pressure groups, bureaucrats and judges will limit or dictate home building, heating, cooling and lighting decisions; transportation and vacation choices; how food can be grown and shipped; what kinds of products can be purchased and how they must be manufactured; and how much energy must come from subsidized, unreliable renewable sources.

Restrictions and taxes on fossil fuels will hit our manufacturing heartland especially hard, as it is heavily dependent on coal and natural gas. The American Council for Capital Formation calculated that Waxman-Markey would spike Indiana’s electricity prices nearly 60% by 2030 – increasing school and hospital energy costs 28-42% and causing numerous jobs to be exported to Asia, where there will be few restrictions on CO2 emissions.

Numerous other states would be similarly hard hit, says ACCF. Other experts have calculated that cap-and-trade would destroy millions of American jobs, raise energy costs for the average US family by $1,400 to $3,100 per year and send overall food and living costs upward by $4,600 annually. Will you be able to afford that? Poor families may get energy welfare.

Wealthier families can absorb these costs. But cap-and-trade will severely affect middle class families. They would be forced to pay skyrocketing energy and food costs, by cutting their college, retirement and vacation budgets. Hospitals and school districts would have to raise fees and taxes, or cut services. Cities and states would have to cover rising welfare and unemployment costs, as tax revenues dwindle. Tourism-based businesses and economies would get hammered.

Switching to renewable energy does not merely increase costs and reduce reliability. It also affects the environment. Ethanol mandates would mean growing corn or switchgrass on farmland the size of Montana, and using vast amounts of water, fertilizer, diesel fuel, natural gas and insecticides. Wind and solar power would mean covering millions of acres of scenic, habitat and farm land with huge turbines and solar panels.

Hundreds of millions of tons of concrete, steel, copper, fiberglass and “rare earth” minerals would be needed to build them and thousands of miles of new transmission lines to get the expensive renewable electricity to distant cities. Because the turbines and panels only work 10-30% of the time, back up natural gas generators would also be needed, meaning still more raw materials.

Even worse, all this pain would bring no benefits. Using global warming alarmists’ own computer models, climatologist Chip Knappenberger calculated that even an 83% reduction in US carbon dioxide emissions would result in global temperatures rising just 0.1 degrees F less by 2050 than not cutting US carbon dioxide emissions at all. That’s because CO2 emissions from China, India and other countries would quickly dwarf America’s job-killing reductions.

 These nations are building a new coal-fired power plant every week and putting millions of new cars on growing networks of highways – to modernize, reduce poverty, improve human health, and ensure that families, offices, schools and hospitals have electricity. Germany plans to build 27 new coal-fired power plants by 2020, and Italy expects to double its reliance on coal by 2015.

Moreover, the 0.1 degree temperature reduction assumes rising CO2 causes global warming – a belief that thousands of scientists vigorously challenge, because there is little actual evidence to support the thesis. Of course, some will gain from penalizing, taxing and hyper-regulating our economy. Al Gore and others involved in emission trading stand to make billions, from trillions of dollars in cap-and-trade transactions.

Coastal states and companies that don’t rely on coal will benefit, as will companies that get excess or low-cost emission permits and can sell these allowances for handsome profits. Well-paid bureaucrats will have “green jobs” – as will scientists, eco-activists and renewable energy companies, who will share $6-10 billion annually in taxpayer cash, as long as they continue to conduct biased climate research, issue dire warnings about global warming cataclysms, and build wind and solar projects. Besides massive pain for no gain, cap-tax-and-trade will create an intrusive Green Nanny State that destroys jobs, reduces personal freedoms, and hobbles economic opportunities and civil rights.

Our Earth is cooling. Our economy is in the tank. Congress and the White House need to stop hyperventilating about global warming, and let the free market get our economy back on track.

See PDF here. See also these two posts “Modelers History of Climate Change” here and “Al Gore, Junk Science Huckster” here. Paul Driessen is senior policy adviser for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), which is sponsoring the All Pain No Gain petition against global-warming hype. He also is a senior policy adviser to the Congress of Racial Equality and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power – Black Death.

Green Job Benefits – for China

By Charles Battig

The October 30, 2009 WSJ edition provides confirmation of the job generating potential of the clean energy revolution so often mentioned by President Obama. Rebecca Smith’s article reports on the new green jobs resulting from the 36,000 acre wind farm in Texas. Unfortunately the jobs are being created in China; I thought that the President was talking about U.S. jobs.

Federal tax credits and millions of dollars of federal funding will be sought to create 2,800 jobs. Great, except that the article notes that the U.S. share of those green jobs would be all of 15%—420 jobs.  The other 85% are created in China!  The managing partner of the private equity firm behind this project is quoted as calling this a “win-win for everyone.”  I say not quite everyone. It is presumably a win for his equity firm and a win for the Chinese turbine manufacturer.  The loser in this game would be the U.S. taxpayer, forced to front the costs of this project and pay to ship jobs overseas.  Wind power is touted as free, clean energy.  Shrewd investors and manufacturers are happy to fulfill this fantasy with taxpayer money.  The reported experiences of wind power in Denmark, Germany, and Spain note no closing of coal fired power plants as a result of wind power coming on line.  Russian natural gas becomes the alternate back up power source when the wind fails.

Another report in the same WSJ details the Chinese march forward with nuclear powered plants, with plans to have as many as 100 on line in twenty years, up from 11 today.  Here in the U.S., nuclear power continues to be hamstrung by environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, and by onerous permitting obstacles.   The world’s first AP1000 third generation reactor, pioneered by U.S. Westinghouse, is to be located , not in the U.S., but in China.  China is also reported to be the prime manufacturing site for the solar panels used in Germany.

China has seen the future and it sees that it is jobs and plentiful energy.  This is something to remember here as the U.S. Federal energy policy is intent to make energy more expensive via Cap/Tax and Trade legislation.  China is happy to fulfill our clean energy fantasies, take our green jobs, while building a new coal power plant each week,  and building next-generation nuclear power plants.

Charles Battig, M.S., M.D.

President, Piedmont Chapter, Virginia Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment, Charlottesville, VA

Increased Dependence Upon LNG Imports Means Energy, Economic and Security Risks

Nov. 16, 2009

The most recent forecast by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that through 2020, America will depend upon imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) for over 40% of our incremental gas supply. [1]  This forecast should raise serious concern for at least three reasons: 

1.  Previously Overstated LNG Projections Have Cost Us

First previous projections have greatly overstated LNG imports and we have paid dearly for these failed expectations. In 2005, for example, imports in 2008 were projected to 1,760 billion cubic feet (Bcf). Actual imports, however, were only 352 Bcf. And, although it was forecasted that we would be paying $3.85 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) in terms of wellhead prices, we wound up importing LNG for $10.03 — 160% more. [1]

2.  Demand For LNG Will Be Fierce, Driving Up Prices

Global competition for supply over the next decade will be intense. We are not the only nation that wants to use more gas. Consequently, the demand for both pipelined gas and LNG cargoes will be escalating all across the world. The United States is destined to be a small actor in this drama and our distance from liquefaction plants in Asia and the Middle East is certainly not to our advantage. In fact, the United States is essentially the last resort in gas markets. Countries such as Spain and Great Britain have developed such high dependence on gas that they are now prepared to outbid us for LNG cargoes. In some instances, for example, ships waiting to be unloaded in the Gulf of Mexico have actually turned around and gone to Europe because they were offered a better price.


3.  Do We Want To Rely On Imports From Questionable Suppliers?

Finally, so much for our goal of energy security: we will be increasingly dependent on risky, even hostile, suppliers.

Hugo Chavez“We are creating something similar to OPEC but with gas.”— Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on the formation of a NG cartel (September, 2009) [2]

Like oil, global natural gas reserves are highly concentrated – almost three-fifths of the world’s reserves are in Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Qatar and Algeria. [3]  Some analysts cavalierly dismiss the idea of a gas cartel — but in the 1970s people thought OPEC wouldn’t work either.


” … the need for more LNG will create closer links to the world oil price, setting the stage for the marginal price of electricity to be set by the whims of foreign oil/LNG suppliers, for the first time in U.S. history.”— U.S. National Energy Technology Laboratory, 2008 [4]


Top Ten Energy Myths

PRI Study by Thomas Tanton 11/4/2009

SAN FRANCISCO — The Pacific Research Institute, a free market think tank based in San Francisco, released a new report debunking the common myths about energy in America. Top Ten Energy Myths, by Thomas Tanton, senior fellow in Energy Studies, confronts ten popular myths about America’s energy sources, uses, and risks.

The report challenges conventional discourse about energy propagated by politicians, celebrities, and the media. Using data from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Energy Information Administration, Top Ten Energy Myths clearly outlines the types of fuel most used in the U.S.—where they come from, the risks involved, and the potential for alternative technologies.

“Contrary to common belief, new technology has greatly reduced the environmental risk of oil extraction, and renewable energies such as solar and wind will not increase our energy security,” said Mr. Tanton. “There is a plethora of unexplored options for securing energy in America through domestic sources, but misled confidence in renewable technologies and increased efficiency are hampering common-sense energy policy.”

The list of top ten myths in the report are:

  1. Myth: Most of our energy comes from oil.
    Reality: Oil represents less than 40 percent of our energy use.
  2. Myth: Most of our oil comes from the Middle East.
    Reality: Two-thirds of our oil comes from North America.
  3. Myth: We have no choice but to import vast quantities of oil and natural gas.
    Reality: The U.S. could significantly reduce imports by expanding domestic production.
  4. Myth: Offshore oil production poses environmental risks.
    Reality: New technology has greatly reduced the risk of oil spills. Reducing oil reservoir pressure through extraction of petroleum will decrease the amount of oil pollution from natural seepage.
  5. Myth: Reducing our petroleum use through alternative energies will increase U.S. energy security.
    Reality: Reducing petroleum use will first reduce domestic production, not production in unstable regions. Renewable technologies are subject to import and price security concerns as well.
  6. Myth: Energy companies will not invest in clean reliable energy so we need government programs to do so.
    Reality: Energy companies are investing huge sums of money to develop cleaner and more reliable sources of energy.
  7. Myth: Renewable energies will soon replace most conventional energy sources.
    Reality: While growing fast in percentage terms, renewable energies are a very small fraction of our energy mix and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
  8. Myth: The U.S. consumes large amounts of energy and thus emits a disproportionate amount of the world’s greenhouse gases.
    Reality: The U.S. uses energy and emits a large portion of the world’s emissions because it produces a large portion of the world’s goods and services.
  9. Myth: Federal mandates for higher-mileage cars means less energy consumption.
    Reality: Increased energy efficiency leads to increased energy use.
  10. Myth: Forcing drivers to use alternative fuels will help solve global warming.
    Reality: Alternative fuels do not necessarily result in lower greenhouse gas emissions.

 “Energy policy must be based on facts, not myths,” said Mr. Tanton. “If based on myths, energy policy could easily curtail our energy supply, drive up prices, and even increase pollution, all without an increase in energy security.”

“If our goal is to lower prices, trim emissions and sustain access to energy, then policy makers, the media, and the public should reject energy myths and stick to the path of facts and reality,” concluded Mr. Tanton.   Read PDF Study


President of Italian Wind Energy Association arrested for fraud

By Guy Dinmore in Financial Times, November 12, 2009
Italian finance police, mounting an operation code named “Gone with the wind”, yesterday said they had arrested two of the country’s most prominent businessmen in the wind energy sector. Police said the charges related to fraud involved in obtaining public subsidies to construct wind farms. They are also investigating the sale of wind farms to foreign companies.
Italian finance police, mounting an operation code named “Gone with the wind”, yesterday said they had arrested two of the country’s most prominent businessmen in the wind energy sector.

Police said the charges related to fraud involved in obtaining public subsidies to construct wind farms. They are also investigating the sale of wind farms to foreign companies.

Oreste Vigorito, head of the IVPC energy company and president of Italy’s National Association of Wind Energy, was arrested on Tuesday in Naples. Vito Nicastri, a Sicilian business associate, was arrested in Alcamo, Sicily.

Two other men were arrested in Sicily and the Naples area, while 11 others were charged but not arrested.

IVPC, a leading constructor and operator of wind farms in Italy, did not return calls asking for comment. Mr Vigorito is also well known as president of the Benevento football club.

“Gone with the wind”, mounted by the finance ministry’s anti-fraud police, started in 2007 and began by blocking public subsidies worth €9.4m ($14m, £8.4m) granted by the ministry for economic development. Last year police confiscated seven wind farms with 185 turbines in Sicily linked to IVPC.

Anti-Mafia prosecutors in Sicily have launched a parallel investigation. The Financial Times was told in April that a large number of wind farms had been built with public subsidies but had never functioned.

Police said yesterday they had sent requests for documentation to five foreign companies – two in the Netherlands and three in Spain – that were linked to IVPC. Other companies in Ireland and the UK, said to be Italian affiliates of IVPC, have been asked by Italian authorities to provide information.

Police also said they were carrying out checks on 12 companies in Italy, including nine with company names that are variations of IP Maestrale and which share the same street name and number as IVPC in Avellino, near Naples.

International Power of the UK, the largest operator of wind farms in Italy last year with a market share of about 15 per cent, said it owned the IP Maestrale companies.

International Power acquired its Maestrale portfolio of wind farms in 2007 for €1.8bn from Trinergy, an Irish company that had bought them from IVPC two years earlier. Some of the projects had been developed by Mr Nicastri, although IP told the FT in April it had no direct relationship with him.

International Power, which has not been charged with any wrongdoing, said in London yesterday: “We are aware of the arrests made in Italy yesterday. Criminal proceedings in Italy are conducted on a confidential basis and we will not make any comment on either the arrests or the individuals involved at this time.”

Mr Nicastri told the FT in April he had developed the “majority” of Sicily’s wind farms. He had then sold some of the projects to IVPC for further sale to foreign companies.

All were functioning, he said at the time. His office declined to comment yesterday.

Lighting the Way to the Future with LED

Christmas is fast approaching and many of us will be buying new lights for decorations.  Read this earlier post below before you shop. LED lights may cost a little more up front but will save you with much longer lifetimes and lower energy usage.

With energy likely to be in short supply and expensive in the future due to unwise policy that is limiting the building of new power plants in deference to unreliable alternative energy sources, ways to save on energy will become increasingly important. Homes will be better insulated, cars and home appliances more energy efficient. The most used device we have in our homes is the light bulb. It is the last thing we turn out before we turn in. There are often multiple lights in each room and a typical home may have many running at once. Since it is so much in use, finding ways to save on the energy used in home lighting will pay big dividends. Let’s start by looking at the different types of bulbs used.


It is widely regarded that Thomas Alva Edison invented the first reasonably practical incandescent lamp, using a carbon filament in a bulb containing a vacuum. Edison’s first successful test occurred in 1879. There were earlier incandescent lamps, such as one by Heinrich Goebel made with a carbon filament in 1854. This incandescent lamp had a carbonized bamboo filament and was mentioned as lasting up to 400 hours. Some sources regard Goebel as the inventor of the incandescent lamp. Since that time, the incandescent lamp has been improved by using tantalum and later tungsten filaments, which evaporate more slowly than carbon. Nowadays, incandescent lamps are still made with tungsten filaments. The filament of an incandescent lamp is simply a resistor. As electrical power is applied, it is converted to heat in the filament. The filament’s temperature is very high, generally over 3600 degrees Fahrenheit. In a “standard” 75 or 100 watt 120 volt bulb, the filament temperature is roughly 4600 degrees Fahrenheit. At high temperatures like this, the thermal radiationfrom the filament includes a significant amount of visible light.

Lighting the Way to the Future with LED3_html_28c3bd75

In a 120 volt, 100 watt “standard” bulb with a rated light output of 1750 lumens, the efficiency is 17.5 lumens per watt. This compares poorly to an “ideal” of 242.5 lumens per watt for one idealized type of white light, or 683 lumens per watt ideally for the yellowish-green wavelength of light that the human eye is most sensitive to.


In 1857, the French physicist Alexandre E. Becquerel who had investigated the phenomena of fluorescence and phosphorescence, theorized about the building of fluorescent tubes similar to those made today. Alexandre Becquerel experimented with coating electric discharge tubes with luminescent materials, a process that was further developed in later fluorescent lamps.

American, Peter Cooper Hewitt (1861-1921) patented (U.S. patent 889,692) the first mercury vapor lamp in 1901. The low pressure mercury arc lamp of Peter Cooper Hewitt is the very first prototype of today’s modern fluorescent lights. A fluorescent light is a type of electric lamp that excites mercury vapor to create luminescence.

The Smithsonian Institute states that, “Electrical inventor, Peter Cooper Hewitt built on the mid-19th century work of German physicist Julius Plucker and glassblower Heinrich Geissler. By passing an electric current through a glass tube containing tiny amounts of a gas, Plucker and Geissler found they could make light. Peter Cooper Hewitt began developing mercury-filled tubes in the late 1890s, and found that they gave off an unappealing bluish-green light. The amount of light, however, was startling. Hewitt realized that few people would want his lamps in their homes, and so concentrated on developing a product for other uses.” That purpose turned out to be lighting for photographic studios and industrial use. George Westinghouse and Peter Cooper Hewitt formed the Westinghouse-controlled Cooper Hewitt Electric Company to produce the first commercial Mercury lamps.

Edmund Germer (1901 – 1987) invented a high pressure vapor lamp, his development of the improved fluorescent lamp and the high-pressure mercury-vapor lamp allowed for more economical lighting with less heat. Edmund Germer was born in Berlin, Germany, and educated at the University of Berlin, earning a doctorate in lighting technology. Together with Friedrich Meyer and Hans Spanner, Edmund Germer patented an experimental fluorescent lamp in 1927.

Edmund Germer is credited by some historians as being the inventor of the first true fluorescent lamp. However, it can be argued that fluorescent lamps have a long history of development prior to Germer. George Inman lead a group of General Electric scientists researching an improved and practical fluorescent lamp. Under pressure from many competing companies the team designed the first practical and viable fluorescent lamp (U.S. Patent No. 2,259,040) that was first sold in 1938. It should be noted that General Electric bought the patent rights to Edmund Germer’s earlier patent

According to The GE Fluorescent Lamp Pioneers, “On Oct 14, 1941 U.S. Patent No. 2,259,040 was issued to George E. Inman; the filing date was Apr 22, 1936. It has generally been regarded as the foundation patent. However, some companies were working on the lamp at the same time as GE and some individuals had already filed for patents. GE strengthened its position when it purchased a German patent that preceded Inman’s. GE paid $180,000 for U.S. Patent No 2,182,732 that had been issued to Friedrich Meyer, Hans J. Spanner and Edmund Germer. While one might argue the real inventor of the fluorescent lamp, it is clear that GE was the first to introduce it.”

You see fluorescent lighting everywhere these days — in offices, stores, warehouses, street corners… You’ll find fluorescent lamps in peoples’ homes under kitchen counters and in workshops. But even though they’re all around us, these devices are a total mystery to most people. Just what is going on inside those white tubes

The central element in a fluorescent lamp is a sealed glass tube. The tube contains a small bit of mercury and an inert gas, typically argon, kept under very low pressure. The tube also contains a phosphor powder, coated along the inside of the glass. The tube has two electrodes, one at each end, which are wired to an electrical circuit. The electrical circuit is hooked up to an alternating current (AC) supply.

Lighting the Way to the Future with LED3_html_m5bcd6ab3

When you turn the lamp on, the current flows through the electrical circuit to the electrodes. There is a considerable voltage across the electrodes, so electrons will migrate through the gas from one end of the tube to the other. This energy changes some of the mercury in the tube from a liquid to a gas. As electrons and charged atoms move through the tube, some of them will collide with the gaseous mercury atoms. These collisions excite the atoms, bumping electrons up to higher energy levels. When the electrons return to their original energy level, they release light photons.


Compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs, are constantly in the news due to their energy efficient qualities. Not only do these light bulbs utilize less energy, but they produce less heat helping to save energy in cooling costs and prolonging the life of the bulb.
Compact fluorescent bulbs produce light that’s more diffuse than incandescent bulbs, so they are very good for area lighting. Compact fluorescent bulbs use about one-quarter of the energy an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light. A good comparison ratio takes a 15-watt CFL to replace a traditional 60-watt bulb. The lower wattage equals less energy use and less heat output. Look for packages that provide conversions for consumers to get the best fitting bulb for your needs.

Lighting the Way to the Future with LED3_html_338939f4

CFLs can cause interference with devices such as radios and computers. In this event, move the lamp or the electronic devices away from each other. The start-up time of a compact fluorescent bulb can be slower than an incandescent bulb, even though the color and brightness are similar. Compact fluorescent bulbs contain trace amounts of mercury, so when they burn out they need to be disposed of properly to prevent environmental damage.

CFLs can cause interference with devices such as radios and computers. In this event, move the lamp or the electronic devices away from each other. The start-up time of a compact fluorescent bulb can be slower than an incandescent bulb, even though the color and brightness are similar. Compact fluorescent bulbs contain trace amounts of mercury, so when they burn out they need to be disposed of properly to prevent environmental damage.


A light-emitting-diode (LED) is a light source that emits light when an electrical current is applied to it. Discovered in the early 20th century, the technology has been greatly developed and continues to advance through research and development. From early indicator lights with low light output–with only one available color–to today’s devices that emit visible, ultraviolet or infra red light, with very high brightness.

The technology behind LED is based on semiconductor technology, which is also the basis of modern computers. In the semiconductor diode, electrons are brought from a state of high energy to a state of low energy state and this energy difference is emitted in the form of light, the effect is called electroluminescence.

Specific colors are associated with specialized materials, that are constructed to have an energy gap corresponding to light with particular wavelength/color.

LEDs have many advantages to traditional light sources, such as: low energy consumption, longer lifetime, little heat production (thus loss), robustness, small size and others. However they still remain relatively expensive per unit cost. However, in the end they save considerable money and energy when you consider lifetime, energy used, efficiency and safety.


If each U.S. household replaced just one standard 60 watt bulb with a CC Vivid LED Light bulb, the energy savings would be greater than the amount of energy produced by one of the largest power plants in the U.S..We could save 26,068,180,736 watts or 26,068 mega (million) watts per day.

Lighting the Way to the Future with LED3_html_5e0f9070

Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, located in Wintersberg, Arizona, is the largest nuclear generation facility in the U.S. is capable of producing over 3,875 megawatt of electricity.


Many homes are decorated with outdoor Christmas lights. Not too many years ago, most were incandescent bulbs not unlike those still found in most night lights. They were often C7 (7 watt) or C9 (9 watt) bulbs.

Lighting the Way to the Future with LED3_html_m59f0275d

In recent years, mini-lights became more popular for both outdoor and indoor applications as they use less electricity and run cooler, posing less of a fire hazard.

Lighting the Way to the Future with LED3_html_3a47c076

LED Mini Lights are now becoming most popular. Super Bright LED Mini Christmas lights will last 100,000 hours and will cost 90% less to run that traditional Christmas lights. Because they have no filament, they require less energy, produce less heat, and last a great deal longer. Because the LED’s energy is not being wasted heating a filament and a greater percentage of power is going directly to generate light, making them much brighter than traditional bulbs. Furthermore, the bulb is constructed out of heavy plastic and therefore remarkably durable.


Despite the fact they tend to cost more than traditional mini or C7 strings, the single season and long term cost savings are impressive

A home decorated with 2400 lights outdoors that are run for 45 days at 6 hours per day at a cost of electricity of $0.10/kilowatt hour.
C7 bulbs: $324.00
Mini-lights: $26.44
LED mini-lights: $5.20

Lighting the Way to the Future with LED3_html_m7c3cc721

Bird Kills? What Bird Kills?

By Robert Bryce, Energy Tribune Editor

Ed. Note: A shorter version of this story appeared in the
Wall Street Journal on September 8.

On August 13, ExxonMobil pled guilty in federal court to charges that it killed 85 birds – all of which were protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The company agreed to pay $600,000 in fines and fees for the bird kills, which occurred after the animals came in contact with hydrocarbons in uncovered tanks and waste water facilities on company properties located in five western states.

The ExxonMobil prosecution is the latest of hundreds of cases that federal officials have brought against oil and gas companies over the last two decades for violations of the MBTA, a statute on the books since 1918.

Those cases were obviously justified. So, too, was the recent MBTA case against Oregon-based PacifiCorp. On July 10, the electric utility agreed to pay $1.4 million in fines and restitution for killing 232 eagles in Wyoming over the past two years. The birds were electrocuted by the company’s poorly-designed power lines.

But the ExxonMobil and PacifiCorp prosecutions bring up an obvious question: why aren’t wind power companies being prosecuted for their bird kills? A July 2008 study of the wind farm at Altamont Pass, California, estimated the farm’s turbines were killing 80 golden eagles per year. Those birds are protected by the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which was enacted in 1940. In addition to the eagles, the study, funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency, estimated that about 10,000 other birds — nearly all of which are protected under the MBTA – are being whacked every year at Altamont.

To recap: ExxonMobil was prosecuted for killing 85 birds over a five-year period. The wind turbines at Altamont, located about 30 miles east of Oakland, are killing more than 100 times as many birds as were Exxon’s tanks, and they are doing it every year. Furthermore, the bird kill problems at Altamont have been repeatedly documented by biologists since at least 1994.

To be sure, the number of birds killed by wind turbines is highly variable. And biologists believe Altamont, which uses older turbine technology, may be the worst example. That said, the carnage at Altamont likely represents only a fraction of the number of birds being killed. Michael Fry of the American Bird Conservancy estimates that US wind turbines are killing between 75,000 and 275,000 birds per year. And yet, the Department of Justice won’t press charges. “Somebody has given the wind industry a get-out-of-jail-free card,” Fry told me. “If there were even one prosecution, then the wind companies would come in line.”

According to the American Wind Energy Association, each megawatt of installed wind power capacity results in the killing of between one and six birds per year. At the end of 2008, the US had about 25,000 megawatts of wind turbines. By 2030, environmental and lobby groups are pushing for the US to be producing 20% of its electricity from wind. Meeting that goal, according to the Department of Energy, will require the US to have about 300,000 megawatts of wind capacity, a 12-fold increase over 2008 levels. If that target is achieved, it will likely mean the killing of at least 300,000 birds per year by wind turbines.

The Wind Energy Association says that bird kills by wind turbines are a “very small fraction of those caused by other commonly accepted human activities and structures — house cats kill an estimated 1 billion birds annually.” That may be true. But cats rarely get frog-marched to the courthouse in handcuffs. Nor are cats killing many golden eagles.

Bats are also affected by wind turbines. One study of a 44-turbine wind farm in West Virginia found that up to 4,000 of the flying mammals had been killed by the turbines in 2004 alone. A 2008 study of dead bats found on the ground near a Canadian wind farm found that many of the bats had been killed by a change in air pressure near the turbine blades in a condition known as “barotrauma.”

Bat Conservation International, an Austin-based group aimed at preserving bats and their habitats, has called the proliferation of wind turbines “a lethal crisis.” And it points out that very few studies have been done on the hundreds of wind farms that have been installed over the past few years. Bat Conservational International says that with thousands of bats being killed per year by wind turbines, “given bats’ low reproductive rates, kills of such magnitude could put entire species at risk.” The group says that “minimizing harmful impacts to wildlife is an essential element of ‘green energy’ and that developers of wind energy” should do more to find methods to reduce the toll that wind is taking on bats.

Twenty years ago, I published several articles about the pollution problems and bird kills caused by the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. In 1989, I went into the field with Rob Lee, who was one of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s lead law enforcement investigators on the problem of bird kills in western oil fields. We met near Big Spring, Texas, and spent a day inspecting tanks and waste pits. I watched Lee recover several dead birds that had been trapped by the pits. Over the course of the following few years, Lee helped bring hundreds of cases against the oil companies. That aggressive enforcement of the law, combined with plenty of media coverage, spurred the industry to clean up its act. Thousands of pits and tanks were either closed or netted, a move which certainly saved thousands of birds from being needlessly killed.

A few days ago I contacted Lee, who is now retired and living in Lubbock, to get his view on why wind companies aren’t being prosecuted despite the fact that they are in obvious violation of the MBTA and Eagle Protection Act. He responded by saying that solving the problem in the oilfields “was easy and cheap.” The oil companies only had to put netting over their tanks and waste facilities, or close them. When it comes to wind turbines, “The fix here is not easy or cheap,” he said.

Nor does Lee expect to see any prosecutions of the politically correct wind industry. “It’s economics,” he said. “The wind industry has a lot of economic muscle behind it.”

While that may be true, it’s also apparent that for America’s lead environmental groups – Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Audubon Society, Sierra Club – the issue of global warming trumps nearly everything else. Those groups are remaining largely silent on the bird kill issue because, in their view, the wind industry’s claims that it reduces carbon dioxide emissions are more important that the unlawful killing of birds.

But let’s be clear. The issue at hand goes beyond questions about bird kills and global warming. The sad reality is that what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. When it comes to protecting America’s wildlife, federal law enforcement officials have a double standard: one that’s enforced against the oil, gas, and electric utility sectors, and another that exempts the wind power sector from prosecution despite years of evidence involving hundreds, even thousands, of violations of two of America’s oldest wildlife-protection laws.

When it comes to protecting America’s wildlife, federal law-enforcement officials are turning a blind eye when it comes to “green” energy sources.

Wind Turbines in Europe Do Nothing for Emissions-Reduction Goals

By Anselm Waldermann

Climate Change Paradox: 

Despite Europe’s boom in solar and wind energy, CO2 emissions haven’t been reduced by even a single gram. Now, even the Green Party is taking a new look at the issue — as shown in e-mails obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE.


Germany’s renewable energy companies are a tremendous success story. Roughly 15 percent of the country’s electricity comes from solar, wind or biomass facilities, almost 250,000 jobs have been created and the net worth of the business is €35 billion per year.

But there’s a catch: The climate hasn’t in fact profited from these developments. As astonishing as it may sound, the new wind turbines and solar cells haven’t prohibited the emission of even a single gram of CO2.

Under current EU law, German wind turbines aren't helping to reduce CO2 emissions. They simply allow Eastern European countries to pollute more.

Under current EU law, German wind turbines aren’t helping to reduce CO2 emissions. They simply allow Eastern European countries to pollute more.

Even more surprising, the European Union’s own climate change policies, touted as the most progressive in the world, are to blame. The EU-wide emissions trading system determines the total amount of CO2 that can be emitted by power companies and industries. And this amount doesn’t change — no matter how many wind turbines are erected.

Experts have known about this situation for some time, but it still isn’t widely known to the public. Even Germany’s government officials mention it only under their breath. No one wants to discuss the political ramifications.

It’s a sensitive subject: Germany is recognized worldwide as a leader in all things related to renewable energy. The environmental energy sector doesn’t want this image to be tarnished. Under no circumstances does Berlin want the Renewable Energy Law (EEG) — which mandates the prices at which energy companies have to buy green power — to fall into disrepute.

At the same time, big energy companies have an interest in maintaining the status quo. As a result, no one is pushing for change. Everyone involved is remaining silent.

Not an Instrument against Climate Change

In truth, however, even the Green Party has recognized the problem, as evidenced by an e-mail exchange last year between party energy experts and obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE. One wrote the following message to a colleague: “Dear Daniel, sorry, but the EEG won’t do anything for the climate anyway.” Ever since the introduction of the emissions trading system, the Renewable Energy Law had become “an instrument of structural change, but not an instrument to combat climate change.”

That means: wind turbines and solar energy plants are revolutionizing Germany’s mix of power sources, creating jobs and making the country more independent from imports. But they aren’t helping in the fight against climate change.

In the worst case scenario, sustainable energy plants might even have a detrimental effect on the climate. As more wind turbines go online, coal plants will be able to reduce their output. This in itself is desirable — but the problem is that the total number of available CO2 emission certificates remains the same. In other words, there will suddenly be more certificates per kilowatt of coal energy. That means the price per ton of CO2 emitted will fall.

That is exactly what happened in recent trading. A certificate to emit a ton of CO2 cost almost nothing. As a result, there was very little incentive for big energy companies to invest in climate friendly technologies.

On the contrary. Germany was able to sell unused certificates across Europe — to coal companies in countries like Poland or Slovakia, for example. Thanks to Germany’s wind turbines, these companies were then able to emit more greenhouse gases than originally planned. Given the often lower efficiency of Eastern European power plants, this is anything but environmentally beneficial.

This phenomenon is especially apparent whenever the sustainable energy industry grows more quickly than anticipated — as in recent years when growth in the renewable energy branch quickly rendered the EU Commission’s CO2 plans obsolete.

Building Renovations Are Better than Windmills

Experts from the Green Party are taking the problem very seriously: “We are in a veritable crisis situation, and that means we must reconsider and alter things we once took for granted,” writes one contributor, adding that it’s important to re-examine “whether we have set the right priorities.”

Another expert begins his e-mail with a general clarification: “Dear People, I’m not fundamentally against the EEG. I only emphasize this because Manfred has repeatedly and erroneously described me as an opponent of the EEG.” But here comes the big “but”: “When reduction of CO2 emissions is more cheaply achieved through insulating a building than using a wind turbine, that is where we should concentrate our support.” When it comes to climate change, everything else is secondary to reducing CO2 emissions.

Read more details here.

Wind Lobby Huffs and Puffs, But Can’t Blow the Facts Away

By the Institute for Energy Research

We do not understand why IER gets the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) so spun up. Maybe it’s because of our opposition to government subsidies. Maybe it’s because we don’t believe that government mandates forcing people to buy energy from expensive, inefficient sources is good for the economy. Or perhaps it is because of our belief that consumers, not Washington, should choose the sources of energy they think is best for them.

Whatever the reason, we would like to apologize to AWEA. Apparently we compelled them to use ad hominem attacks like “anti-clean energy” to describe our organization and “bogus” to describe our research. We would have preferred that AWEA produce a substantive rebuttal to our recently released report, “Economic impacts from the promotion of renewable energies: The German Experience.”

In an October 21st blog post, AWEA states “IER’s strategy clearly is to discredit wind energy in other countries.” We do not have a strategy to discredit wind energy in other countries. President Obama and top Administration officials are telling us that America must follow Germany’s example with respect to renewables or we will be left behind. Taking the President at his word, we sought to better understand Germany’s experience by commissioning a study by the think tank Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (RWI). The report found the following facts:

  • Financial aid to Germany’s solar industry has now reached a level that far exceeds average wages, with per worker subsidies as high as $240,000.
  • In 2008, the price mark-up attributable to the government’s support for “green” electricity was about 2.2 cents US per kWh. For perspective, a 2.2 cent per kWh increase here in the US would amount to an average 19.4 percent increase in consumer’s electricity bills.
  • Between 2000 and 2010, the net cost of the German government support for solar was $73.2 billion and an additional $28.1 billion for wind. Because the U.S. economy is five times larger that Germany’s, a comparable expenditure in the U.S. would amount to about half a trillion dollars.
  • Green jobs created by government actions disappear as soon as government support is terminated, a lesson the German government and the green companies it supports are beginning to learn.
  • Government aid for wind power is now three times the cost of conventional electricity.

AWEA lobbies Congress for government handouts and subsidies for wind energy production, so we understand why they would like to these facts to remain hidden.  As the report shows, Germany’s experiment with promoting renewable energy has been expensive, and transplanting that experience to the United States will be expensive.

Apples to oranges, AWEA argues, because Germany is not a good model for the United States.  In their own words:

“The problem is that the United States is not considering a feed in tariff as a means to encourage wind development because it would not work. Instead, the US is considering a free-market based national Renewable Electricity Standard, and numerous studies have shown that an RES would decrease electricity prices.”

We hope AWEA informs President Obama and other top Administration officials that Germany’s feed-in tariff is not a good model for the United States.

We hope AWEA informs Representative Jay Inslee, who is promoting legislation to establish a federal feed-in tariff, that the United States is not considering a feed-in tariff, as it would probably come as a surprise to him.

In a Congressional hearing on September 24, 2009, Representative Inslee explained that Germany’s system of promoting renewables through a feed-in tariff is a better way to go than the Spanish experience.

We hope AWEA informs itself that Germany’s feed-in tariff “would not work” in the U.S., instead of describing it as “similar to a Renewable Electricity Standard” which AWEA strongly supports.  Here’s what AWEA’s website says:

“A distributed generation or “feed-in” tariff ensures that locally owned, small-scale renewable energy systems become significant contributors to the local power supply. A feed-in tariff is similar to a Renewable Electricity Standard (see “Wind energy policy issues” except that instead of establishing a set quantity of renewable electricity a utility must generate, it establishes a set price at which a utility purchases excess electricity from a renewable generator, such as a small wind system.”

In AWEA’s blog post, they describe a national Renewable Electricity Standard as “a free-market” program. That is not accurate. In free markets, people are free to choose. A Renewable Electricity Standard forces people to buy wind, solar, and other government-approved energy sources. It is a mandate.  Forcing someone to buy your product is not a free-market program by any definition.

Contrary to AWEA’s assertion that a Renewable Electricity Standard would lower energy prices, common sense and real-world evidence suggest otherwise. Wind and other government-approved renewables are more expensive than other forms of energy. Common sense tells us that requiring people to buy expensive and inefficient renewable energy, through a renewable energy mandate, will only increase the cost of electricity. Currently, twenty-nine states have binding renewable electricity mandates and the electricity prices in those states are thirty-eight percent higher than in states that do not have binding renewable electricity mandates.

Lastly, AWEA states that they expect IER “to take on other countries that have successfully integrated wind into their energy mix.” That assumes, of course, that increased electricity prices and billions of dollars in subsidies is a sign of successful integration of wind into a country’s electricity mix. Some would beg to differ, especially those who are footing the bill.

The Administration tells us that U.S. energy policy should emulate countries like Spain, Denmark, and Germany. The facts show that the promotion of renewables in Spain, Denmark, and Germany has been very expensive and has resulted in lower employment overall as an opportunity cost of the lavish subsidies. Of course, it is up to policymakers to ultimately decide whether the United States should follow a similar path, but no one should mislead Americans into thinking that doing so will come without a cost.

See full post and comments here.