Obamas focus on visiting clean-tech companies raises questions

The Washington Post

By Carol D. Leonnig, Joe Stephens and Alice Crites, June 25, 2011

Link to Article

With trips that began two months after he took office, President Obama has devoted more than half of his out-of-town private-business visits to promoting a single industry: clean technology, which the president says will lead the nation back to economic prosperity.

His praise for renewable-energy projects has been effusive. A day after this year’s State of the Union address, he stood among workers at a small Wisconsin lighting company and dubbed it a “model for the future,” helped by government incentives offering a “leg up to renewable-energy companies.”

He praised workers for “helping to point the way” to a cleaner future while visiting a Charlotte company that makes an electric-car battery component. In Reno, Nev., in April, he lauded a start-up for “growing by leaps and bounds” as it markets a machine that converts waste heat into electricity.

He used similar words a few weeks ago at a Durham, N.C., company that makes energy-efficient lighting, saying it is “helping to lead a clean-energy revolution.”

In all, Obama has visited 22 clean-tech projects on 19 separate trips, all emphasizing economic recovery and a $90 billion stimulus program to promote energy independence. The president has underscored his support by singling out specific companies in speeches and White House radio addresses.

Obama’s unwavering focus has helped him fulfill a campaign pledge to push clean tech, from solar energy and wind power to electric vehicles. But it also has come with political exposure: By emphasizing a sector in which the risks are high, the president has prompted questions on Capitol Hill and from industry about the wisdom of his singular strategy and his political ties to some of the companies chosen for federal attention.

The oil and gas industry, for example, has invested billions in energy innovation and job creation and could benefit from similar presidential attention, said Martin J. Durbin, executive vice president of the American Petroleum Institute.

“He’s missing an incredible opportunity he has to join with us to make a difference in economic growth, job creation, national security and clean technology,” Durbin said. “If you went and added up the number of jobs at these clean-tech companies he visited, in all honesty, I think you’re going to find a very modest number of jobs.”

This month, a congressional energy subcommittee chairman accused the administration of picking clean-tech “winners and losers” by pouring government money into a sector best determined by free-market forces.

Republicans and outside critics also have honed in on the political connections of some companies that have received federal help. The most attention has focused on Solyndra, a Silicon Valley solar company that ran into financial trouble after receiving a $535 million federal loan guarantee commitment. Last week, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee pressed the Office of Management and Budget to account for its role in the selection. Obama visited Solyndra’s factory in May 2010, only weeks after it became public that independent auditors had questioned whether it could remain a “going concern.”

Some of the biggest investors in Solyndra, which makes easy-to-install solar panels, were venture capital funds associated with Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser, a key Obama fundraiser. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on oversight and investigations, said he is “concerned that there was a hurry to get this money out of the door and that companies and individuals that supported the president were among the beneficiaries.”

A spokesperson said Kaiser would not comment for this article.

A White House spokesman, Clark Stevens, said Obama believes that renewable-energy innovations will break U.S. dependence on foreign oil and provide thousands of new jobs. The clean-tech sector is filled with success stories, he said.

“The president will continue to support these initiatives and highlight the American ingenuity, the people and the private-sector companies that are helping to generate jobs and foster our nation’s 21st-century clean-energy economy,” Stevens said.

A gusher of cash

In the 2008 presidential race, Obama promised to invest at least $150 billion over 10 years in innovative energy projects, and he corralled extensive support from energy start-ups and venture capitalists. As a candidate, he was the “first that got the importance of emerging-growth companies in creating jobs,” said Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association.

Obama collected twice as much campaign money from this group as did his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). Numerous green-energy investors raised money for Obama and later won jobs or advisory roles in his administration.

The president laid out his agenda in his first State of the Union address, saying that a recession-strapped government must invest in clean energy to “build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.”

There was intense competition for clean-tech stimulus dollars. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said his agency reviewed 50,000 applicants and chose 5,000, a 90 percent rejection rate.

For the winners, there was an added bonus when Obama or his Cabinet secretaries dropped by to tout progress. “You couldn’t get that kind of publicity if you devoted all your advertising budget to it,” said Brendan Doherty, an assistant professor at the U.S. Naval Academy who has studied and written about presidential travel.

Obama began his clean-tech travel in March 2009. At a number of companies the president visited, there were connections – not all of them close, to be sure – to his 2008 campaign. Over the months, Obama touted a Florida’s utility’s electric grid project (a company in an Obama fundraiser’s portfolio was doing extensive business with the project) and a Nevada company that generates emission-free power from waste heat, the warmth radiated by machines or industrial processes (an Obama fundraiser is a partner in a venture fund that has a small stake in the company).

A White House spokesman said these connections were purely coincidental. Numerous factors – including location, accessibility to airports and media accommodations – help decide where Obama will travel, the spokesman said. He said employees and investors in some companies visited by Obama also donated to Republicans and to the president’s 2008 Democratic opponents.

Some of Obama’s factory appearances have had a distinctly political feel. The trips have taken him to states where he did well in 2008 and where his message of a rebounding job market is helping set the stage for his reelection campaign.

A moment of glory

Obama was scheduled to visit California for a political event when Solyndra’s communications director, David Miller, called the White House to ask that a factory tour be added to his itinerary.

The White House already knew about the ambitious start-up, which had won an Energy Department commitment for a $535 million federal loan guarantee, the first awarded under the stimulus plan. Guarantees make it easier for companies to secure private financing at lower interest rates and assure lenders that a loan will be covered by taxpayers if a recipient defaults.

Energy Secretary Chu flew out for a Solyndra factory groundbreaking, and Vice President Biden’s image was beamed to the ceremony through a video feed.

After Obama’s visit was scheduled, waves of Secret Service agents, military communications crews and White House advance teams descended on Solyndra. When the president strode onto the factory floor, the mood was festive as the crowd listened to him praise what he said were Solyndra’s plans “to hire a thousand workers.”

“The future is here,” Obama said.

Buoyed by government confidence, Solyndra planned an initial public stock offering expected to raise $300 million. Its largest investors were venture capital funds associated with Kaiser, the Tulsa oil executive who served as a major Obama fundraiser in 2008 and who has been a frequent White House visitor.

But just weeks before Obama’s arrival, the company released sobering news from independent auditors evaluating its public offering plan. PricewaterhouseCoopers said Solyndra’s losses and negative cash flow raised “substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.” The report, covered by financial media, added to doubts on Wall Street.

Solar analyst Ramesh Misra, who works for the investment firm Brigantine Advisors, was skeptical about Solyndra’s signature product. Its solar panels are composed of an array of glass tubes that are expensive to produce, causing investment advisers to question whether the product could compete with less-expensive Chinese models. Misra, who has no financial interest in Solyndra or its rivals, questioned the administration’s decision.

“To think they could compete on any basis, that took a very big leap of faith,” Misra said.

“Solyndra stands out,” agreed Robert Lahey, an analyst with Ardour Capital who added that he thinks the government took a substantial risk in backing Solyndra.

A month after Obama’s visit, the company withdrew its public offering plans. A few weeks later, congressional auditors announced that Energy Department had given favorable treatment to some loan-guarantee applicants. A Government Accountability Office report found that the department had bypassed required steps for funding awards to five applicants, including Solyndra. The GAO did not publicly identify those five in its report; the Energy Department asked that some information about companies be excluded asbusiness sensitive.

“Contrary to the GAO report, the department met every requirement for the Solyndra transaction,” an Energy Department spokesperson said, adding that all reviews were completed before any taxpayer money was obligated.

Solyndra announced in November that it would close its older factory and reduce its workforce by 127 people. Plant expansion plans were put on hold.

This year, the Energy Department’s inspector general criticized the agency for not maintaining e-mails discussing selections of loan-guarantee winners, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), began investigating Solyndra’s selection. At a hearing last week, Republicans criticized the Office of Management and Budget for not answering questions and suggested that they may resort to subpoenas.

Solyndra chief executive Brian Harrison said the loan guarantee led to unrealistic expectations. Company officials said they never intended to hire 1,000 additional workers, as Obama said, but believed that Solyndra could create that many jobs in the “related supply chain.” Since the loan, Solyndra said, it has added about 310 net positions in-house.

With cumulative sales of more than $250 million, Solyndra “doubled our production from 2009 to 2010, and we’ll double it again from 2010 to 2011,” Harrison said. “All in all, it’s a good story. I don’t focus on the political aspects of what happens in Washington. I’m focused on our business.”

While analysts remain skeptical, the federal government is increasing its bet. On June 10, the U.S. Export-Import Bank announced that it would provide $10.3 million in financing to help Solyndra sell its solar panels to a supermarket distribution company in suburban Brussels.

A concerted focus

Along with Capitol Hill fallout, the administration’s attention to certain clean-tech companies has led to some industry concerns. Executives of some struggling start-ups ask whether the administration rigorously examines companies and their products before endorsing a favored few.

Charlotte-based Celgard, for example, already was considered a global industry leader in manufacturing a battery component used in consumer electronics, including electric vehicles. It applied for stimulus funding to help build a new factory, and in August 2009, the Energy Department awarded it a $49 million stimulus grant. The company was one of 48 winners from among an estimated 240 applicants in the electric vehicle and battery sector.

Chu came from Washington to announce the grant at the Celgard factory, praising “innovators and entrepreneurs who are rebuilding this economy from the ground up.”

“These grants were chosen not to simply boost a few companies but to start an entire advanced battery industry in America,” he said.

Obama lauded an unnamed company fitting Celgard’s description in his 2010 State of the Union address. And in early April 2010, he flew to Charlotte to spotlight Celgard’s progress under the Recovery Act.

“We are proud of you,” the president told workers assembled in a flag-draped warehouse. “You’re helping to point the way . . . not just here in North Carolina, but all across the country.”

A few months later, Celgard won more praise. In July, Obama lauded its technology in a Kansas City speech, and days later, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis showed up at Celgard to signal more good news: Since Obama’s visit, the company had added 40 workers.

Amid this flurry of White House interest, some competitors questioned why Celgard warranted so much attention.

During the official visits, federal regulators were pursuing a case against Celgard’s parent company, Polypore. The Federal Trade Commission had charged the company with trying to monopolize several battery markets and control prices by buying one of its few U.S. competitors. Obama’s visit came a month after an administrative judge agreed that Polypore’s purchase created an illegal monopoly and that it must sell the competitor. The case is under appeal.

“Generally, we’re concerned with what kind of due diligence the administration did before throwing out that kind of money and attention,” said Bryan Godber, vice president of Trojan Battery, which faced the prospect of higher prices for Polypore products. “They are giving some companies massive advantages over others.”

Meanwhile, Polypore has seen its stock rise more than tenfold during Obama’s tenure – from $4.15 a share in November 2008 to more than $64 a share in May 2011 – largely because of the booming market for electric vehicles. Private-equity firm Warburg Pincus has seen its original $300 million investment more than triple in value and recently has been locking in gains with stock sales. (More than $253,000 was raised for Obama in 2008 from Warburg employees and their families, campaign finance records show.)

The chairman of Polypore’s board, Warburg Pincus director Michael Graff, and his wife donated $14,600 toward Obama’s 2008 presidential bid, including $10,000 given shortly before the election to an Obama committee geared to get out the vote in battleground states. Graff, a registered Republican, made no donations to Republicans in the 2008 cycle, records show.

Warburg spokesman Ed Trissel said political contributions by Graff or other members of the firm had “no connection with any interactions between the Obama administration and Polypore.”

Still, competitors question whether the administration could create a more level playing field.

Abbas Samii, chief executive of battery separator start-up Advanced Membrane Systems, tried to win several million dollars through the Energy Department to launch a North Carolina plant but was turned down.

“We could have achieved so much with just one-tenth of that money,” he said, referring to Celgard’s $49 million stimulus grant. “Now, not only are we struggling, our competitors got all the money.”

A sign of accomplishment

An image of Obama speaking from a factory floor brings global attention to companies trying to raise capital and best competitors. Celgard posted photos of the president’s visit in its corporate hallways and cited it in presentations as evidence of “accomplishments and progress.”

Orion Energy Systems, a small Wisconsin lighting company, believed a presidential visit was so important to business that it worked political connections for two years to get Obama to its Manitowoc factory.

“With customers, it is huge credibility,” said Orion chief executive Neal Verfuerth.

Obama came to the plant – and stopped by two neighboring companies – this January, the day after a State of the Union address in which he declared that the nation faces a “Sputnik moment” in its quest for innovation.

Orion, a publicly traded company, counts among its largest institutional investors a firm run by John Rogers Jr., a longtime friend and Obama fundraiser. A spokesman for the fund said Rogers played no role in the Obama visit.

Some of Orion’s competitors said they could only wish for such a moment of glory.

Mark Eubanks, president of Cooper Lighting in Atlanta, estimated that his company sells six times more energy-efficient lighting than Orion, but it is based in a Republican stronghold.

“We’d be happy to host the president,” Eubanks said. He added that he’s not expecting the phone to ring anytime soon.

Staff writer T.W. Farnam contributed to this report.

Advertisements

Obama, EPA, environmental lobby responsible for low oil reserves

By Paul Driessen

President Obama and his out of control EPA tell us our oil reserves are running dry. A simple change of polices and attitudes are all that are required to mulitply U.S. reserves and make us less dependent on foreign oil.

President Obama’s speeches sum up his views on oil, natural gas, and energy prices in just 44 words.

“We have less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. We’re running out of places to drill. We’re running out of oil. We need to end our $4 billion in annual taxpayer subsidies to oil companies. We need to invest in clean, renewable energy.”

As Congressman Joe Wilson would say, “That’s a lie!” Or at least a deliberate distortion of facts.

‘Reserves’ Is a Misleading Term

Oil “reserves” are what can actually be produced at today’s prices, with existing technologies, and under current laws and regulations. America has vast oil, gas, and coal resources—centuries of potential hydrocarbon energy. We have the technology to extract it, especially at $100 a barrel. What we don’t have are laws and regulations that allow us to do so.

If the President were honest, he would say: “We’re running out of oil that Democrats, my administration, and our radical environmentalist allies will let this country produce. We’re running out of places we’ll let companies drill. We have 2 percent of world oil reserves because we’ve made most of our resources off limits.”

If he were honest, he would also say, “We will demonize, penalize, hyper-regulate, tax, and kill hydrocarbons. But we will mandate and subsidize wind, solar, and ethanol, ignore their environmental and human costs, and extol the measly, expensive, unreliable energy they produce.”

Leases Denied

Gulf of Mexico oil production is projected to drop 240,000 barrels a day this year. That’s $9 billion that America will have to pay this year to import replacement oil … $1.3 billion we won’t collect in federal royalty payments … thousands of jobs that won’t be “created or saved” … and billions in corporate, personal income, and sales taxes we won’t collect.

The U.S. Geological Survey says upwards of 90 billion barrels of oil remain to be discovered in the Arctic. ANWR alone could hold 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil, in places totaling 1/20th the surface area of Washington, DC. But it’s all off limits to We the People who own it.

Shell Oil spent $3.5 billion exploring and acquiring leases in the Chukchi Sea—but the Interior Department and EPA refuse to issue drilling permits, arguing diesel emissions from the rig could cause global warming or affect the health of natives 20 to 50 miles away!

Thwarting Other Sources Too

Made in America technology and innovation have unlocked centuries’ worth of new natural gas supplies in U.S. shale formations. This game-changing development has reduced gas prices and devastated the “we’re running out” mantra. So the environmental activists have rallied the troops to produce a bogus “documentary” film (Gasland), a sloppy Cornell University “study,” and reams of new EPA regulations to stymie shale gas.

Coal generates half of all U.S. electricity. So EPA has issued 946 pages of new air quality rules and launched a massive propaganda campaign against power plant mercury emissions, even though those power plants account for barely 0.5 percent of all mercury in the air Americans breathe. President Obama has said he wants to “bankrupt” the industry.

All told, more than a billion acres of U.S. energy prospects are locked up. Yes, there are “no quick fixes” for our energy problems, as President Obama loves to remind us. But if we’d begun drilling in some of these places 10-20 years ago, we wouldn’t be in this fix today.

Subsidizing Losers

As to subsidies, even the alleged billions for oil companies are a pittance compared to subsidies for wind, solar, and ethanol. Subsidies per unit of energy produced are even more shockingly biased. According to the Energy Information Administration, gas-fired electricity generation received 25 cents per megawatt-hour (mWh) in 2007 subsidies; coal got 44 cents. Wind turbines got 23.4 dollars, and photovoltaic solar received 24.3 dollars per mWh.

Solar panel maker Solyndra snagged a $535 million stimulus” loan in 2009; then, the day after the 2010 elections, it announced it was laying off 190 people. In April 2011 alone, the Energy Department poured $9 billion in loan guarantees into wind and solar projects that will blanket large swaths of crop and wildlife habitat land.

Wind and solar produce electricity just two to eight hours a day, with backup generators making up the monumental shortfall. That means we must duplicate every megawatt of wind and solar with a MW of backup power.

Ethanol receives subsidies of $5.72 per million Btu (190 times what oil and gas companies get) so we can burn food to make fuels the government won’t let us drill for. In 2010, U.S. farmers turned 36 percent of their corn crop into ethanol, which provides 30 percent less energy than gasoline—meaning cars get less mileage per tank for more bucks per gallon. Making one gallon of this substandard fuel also requires some 1,700 gallons of water and large quantities of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides.

Energy economist Indur Goklany calculates biofuel policies cause up to 200,000 deaths a year in poor countries by raising food prices, increasing malnutrition, and making people more vulnerable to disease.

Overall, since assuming power in Washington, the Obama administration has channeled over $60 billion into the “green jobs” sector.

And the renewable energy subsidy train rolls on.

Study: Biodegradable plastics can release methane

HELEN CHAPPELL – Staff Writer

RALEIGH — New plastics designed to break down naturally have been hailed as environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional plastics. Instead of taking decades or even centuries to decompose, they vanish in a few years.

But new research at N.C. State University suggests they may not be so green after all.

The study, led by NCSU doctoral student James Levis, found that biodegradable plastics can release large amounts of methane gas when they break down in landfills. Methane is one of the most problematic greenhouse gases, able to trap much more heat than carbon dioxide, making it a major contributor to global warming. It’s also flammable.

“Everybody assumes that biodegradable is desirable. This study calls that into question,” says Dr. Morton Barlaz, an author on the study and director of the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering at NCSU.

Biodegradable plastics are commonly used to make yard-waste bags and disposable drink cups. Unlike plastic bottles that are designed to be recycled, these materials were created with composting in mind. They’re also able to break down quickly if they end up as litter.

Though they might have been intended to go into the compost, many are destined to end up in a landfill instead.

“You can say a cup is compostable,” Levis says. “But here in Raleigh and most places, there’s no separate bin, and it’s going to end up going in the garbage.”

In a well-managed compost system, Levis says, biodegradable plastics don’t release much methane at all. As long as oxygen is present, they will give off mostly carbon dioxide and water.

But that’s not the case in landfills, where garbage is starved of oxygen.

Without oxygen, biodegradable plastics are decomposed by bacteria that give off methane. These bacteria are already hard at work in landfills slowly digesting food waste, paper and other biodegradable materials.

When the bacteria destroy plastics, though, they work quickly. Some biodegradable plastics get destroyed even faster than newsprint, according to the team’s computer model.

This means that a lot of methane is released in a very short time, and that creates a challenge for landfill operators.

Many landfills – including several in the Triangle – try to capture methane from decomposing garbage to prevent it from becoming a hazard or escaping into the atmosphere. This captured methane is often burned to generate electricity or used industrially.

Too long to wait

But the speedy decay of biodegradable plastics means that landfill operators would have to begin sucking out methane right away. And that, according to John Roberson, project manager for capital projects like the South Wake Landfill, just isn’t possible. To capture methane, operators drill wells throughout the packed garbage and use a system of slotted pipes to suck it out.

“Since it’s an active landfill being used, we can’t just put wells everywhere,” Roberson says. “They’d get destroyed on a daily basis.”

As a result, landfill operators usually can’t start capturing methane until two to five years after the landfill starts filling with garbage. By then, the methane from biodegradable plastics is long gone and has escaped into the atmosphere.

If biodegradable plastics were designed to decay more slowly in landfills, Barlaz says, operators would be able to capture more of it for fuel.

At the South Wake Landfill, an electricity-generating project is in development. Methane sucked out of the North Wake Landfill is burned at the adjacent Covidien pharmaceutical plant. The Orange County Landfill plans to begin generating electricity next year, in a joint project with UNC.

In this respect, the uncollected gas from biodegradable plastics isn’t just an environmental hazard, it’s a missed opportunity. In landfills with methane-capture projects, Levis says, the plastics are a tremendous untapped resource.

“It’s a big environmental take away that a lot of people haven’t focused on yet,” Levis said.

New Study Throws Water on Obama Fuel-Economy Goals

New Study Throws Water on Obama Fuel-Economy Goals

By Drew Winter
WardsAuto.com, Jun 8, 2011 9:05 AM

A new report says the Obama Admin.’s proposed 62 mpg (3.8 L/100 km) fuel-economy target for 2025 could kill hundreds of thousands of jobs, put a $55,000 sticker on an ordinary family car and deliver only minor savings to consumers.

The study was produced by the Ann Arbor, MI-based Center for Automotive Research, which has been a darling of the White House in recent months.

The automotive think tank has supplied much of the data that support government claims the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler saved 1.2 million jobs, billions in tax revenues and billions more in welfare and unemployment checks that never had to be paid out.

But it’s unlikely the White House will be touting CAR’s new study on proposed corporate average fuel economy standards. The paper, which forecasts what the U.S. vehicle market will look like in 2025, is expected to officially be released in the next few days.

“These mandates are so tough, why would (the White House) be interested in destroying an industry they just saved?” one of the study’s authors, Sean McAlinden, CAR chief economist and vice president of research, tells Ward’s.

Currently, auto makers must meet a U.S. fleet average fuel economy of 35.5 mpg (6.6 L/100 km) by 2016.

Beginning this year with ’12 vehicles, fleet-fuel economy will increase an average 4%.

Last year, the Obama Admin. proposed new CAFE rules beginning in 2017 that would require average increases of 3% to 6% per year, achieving 47 mpg (5 L/100 km) by 2025 at the low end and 62 mpg at the high end.

Obama has been favoring standards at the high end of the scale, and some environmental groups are pressing for faster increases of 7% or more annually beginning in 2017.

If gasoline prices are $6.00 per gallon in 2025, a case can be made for continued 3% annual improvements in fuel economy beginning in 2017.

But more dramatic increases would prove catastrophic to the U.S. auto industry, says Jay Baron, president and director-manufacturing systems at CAR and a co-author of the study.

“The changes are so radical for the vehicle to make these (2025) standards, we will have to completely and utterly redesign the body and chassis, supply chain and fabrication,” he says.

The new rules would require “huge changes” in powertrains, Baron says.

When you go to 4%, 5%, 6% and even 7% reductions, there will be hundreds of thousands of job losses per year. What we’re arguing against is extremism,” says McAlinden, pointing out a 62-mpg fleet average translates into a 71-mpg (3.3 L/100-km) average for cars and 41-mpg (5.7 L/100-km) average for trucks.

CAR says the study was completely self-funded.

Oil “subsidy” and “tax breaks” nonsense

Think repealing oil industry tax incentives will increase federal revenues? Think again.

Paul Driessen

President Obama frequently says Americans “need to end our $4 billion in annual taxpayer subsidies to oil companies.” The latest Democrat bill would have repealed some $2 billion of what Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and others call “subsidies” and “special tax breaks” for Big Oil.

That’s baloney – shameless demagoguery that will inflict further damage on our struggling economy.

Subsidies are cash payments from government to the private sector. Money is taken from the 51% of Americans who still pay income taxes – and transferred by legislators and bureaucrats to companies and activities that “deserve” or “require” these wealth transfers, because the recipients perform an important service and/or could not remain in business unless subsidized with other people’s money (OPM).

The petroleum industry does not receive “subsidies” to produce oil and natural gas. It doesn’t even get “special tax breaks” or outright tax credits. What are falsely described in these terms are actually tax deductions for costs incurred by companies in the process of exploring, drilling, producing and refining the oil and natural gas that energize this nation’s economy and living standards.

These tax deductions are equivalent or similar to deductions claimed by every US business, large and small, for things like facilities depreciation, equipment, utilities, payroll, and research and development. They are intended to ensure that businesses, like individuals, recover their costs and get taxed only on their net incomes. For oil companies those deductions include:

* Geological and geophysical costs, for exploration to assess prospects prior to drilling;

* Intangible drilling costs – equipment, labor, fuel and supplies associated with drilling expensive wells;

* Expensing “tertiary injectants,” water and chemicals injected into older wells to keep them producing;

* Domestic manufacturer’s deductions of up to 6% of income earned from extracting oil and gas (farmers, manufacturers and other producers can deduct up to 9% of earned income);

* Percentage depletion allowance, allowing for gradual recovery of up-front investments in a petroleum (or iron, gold, limestone, et cetera) deposit that is gradually extracted and depleted. The allowance is no longer (since 1975) available to “integrated” companies that produce, refine and market oil.

White House, congressional and eco-activist claims that repealing these deductions will generate “billions in new revenues” reflect an abysmal grasp of basic business, economic and behavioral principles.

Thankfully, more Americans are beginning to understand that repealing any or all of these deductions will increase oil companies’ individual project and overall operating costs. That means future bonus bids will decline, wells won’t be drilled, fewer deposits will be profitable enough to develop, and wells and fields will be abandoned prematurely. Oil and gas will be left in the ground, crews will lose jobs, tax and royalty payments will dwindle, and the USA will send billions more overseas for imported oil.

Informed Americans also recognize that, in 2008, oil and natural gas provided 61% of the energy that powers America. Natural gas generates almost a quarter of our electricity. These fuels provided affordable energy 24/7/365, supported 9.2 million jobs, kept millions off welfare and food stamp rolls, and generated billions in revenue for federal, state and local governments.

Wind and solar combined accounted for barely 0.6% of total US energy, and 1.9% of electricity generation, in 2008 – providing expensive, intermittent, heavily subsidized energy 8/6/312 or less.

In subsidies per unit of energy actually produced, gas-fired electricity generation got 25 cents per megawatt-hour in 2007 subsidies; coal received 44 cents (mostly for clean technology research). By comparison, wind turbines got 23.4 dollars and photovoltaic solar received 24.3 dollars per MWh.

One project alone – the $2-billion Shepherds Flat wind farm in north-central Oregon will transfer $500 million in hard cash subsidies, plus a subsidized loan guarantee of $1.1 billion to White House friend Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric and their partners. These OPM subsidies equal 80% of the $2-billion in tax breaks that Senators Reid and Schumer are so exercised about. The contract was GE’s largest in FY 2009. (Ethanol subsidies totaled nearly $6 billion in 2010, three times the senators’ target.)

Shepherds Flat will be the world’s largest wind farm: 338 gigantic 2.5 MW turbines, 97 miles of new roads and 167 miles of high voltage transmission lines sprawling across 32,000 to 83,000 acres (up to twice the size of Washington, DC) of the scenic Columbia River Gorge area. At best, the turbines may average one-third of the 2.5 MW stamped on their nameplates. At the whim of the winds, the farm will generate electricity at wild swings between zero and the turbines’ combined rated capacity of 845 MW.

That’s about one-quarter to one-half of what a single modern coal, gas or nuclear power plant generates 90-95% of the time, day after day, all year long … from a tiny fraction of the wind farm’s land area.

As is the case with Pacific Northwest hydroelectric, Four Corners coal and Arizona nuclear power, Shepherds Flat will supply electricity for Southern California, so that state can maintain its lifestyle, meet its lofty renewable energy goals and be “green,” by using energy generated in someone else’s backyard.

Building and installing the turbines will require some 1.5 million pounds of rare earth metals (from Mongolian areas devastated by mining and smelting the metals), plus at least 700,000,000 pounds of concrete, steel, copper and fiberglass … accompanied by the fossil fuel energy, pollution and CO2 associated with mining, smelting and manufacturing these materials. The turbines will impact scenery and wildlife habitats, and kill numerous bats, falcons, hawks, eagles, owls, egrets, herons, ducks and curlews.

However, environmentalists, legislators and regulators treat those impacts – as well as noise, human health, airspace, Defense Department and other concerns – very differently from the way they handle hydrocarbon projects. In their quest for “green” energy at any cost, they simply brush these issues aside.

Our taxpayer subsidies are financing all of this, and generating impressive profits for their recipients. GE, for instance, generated over $5 billion in US profits in 2010 – but paid no US income taxes.

Compare this to Big Oil companies, which likewise made big profits last year… but also paid big taxes. ExxonMobil, for example, earned $30.5 billion in profits in 2010, on revenues of $383 billion, and paid $1.6 billion in US income taxes. Its combined lease bonuses, rents, royalties, taxes and other payments to the US Treasury totaled almost $10 billion last year. The company also paid state and local levies.

Overall, a Tax Foundation analysis of Energy Information Agency data shows, the largest integrated oil companies paid $1.95 trillion in corporate income, severance, property, excise and sales taxes, between 1981 and 2008. During that time, those companies’ total combined profits (net of taxes and expenses, and after adjusting for inflation) were $1.4 trillion – or 40% less than they paid in total taxes.

The “green” agenda – to use mandates, subsidies, regulations and taxes to coerce a shift to “renewable” energy and “fundamentally transform” our energy, economic and social structure – is rationalized largely by fears of “dangerous manmade global warming.” It is deceptive, costly, environmentally harmful, and devoid of genuine scientific evidence to support its alarmist claims.

Europe’s catchy “20-20-20” climate action plan (20% renewable energy, 20% reduction in overall energy consumption, 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions, by 2020) carries a minimum price tag of OPM $300 billion. It may reduce average global temperatures by 0.1 degree F (0.05 Celsius) by 2100 … assuming climate change is actually driven by carbon dioxide, rather than by multiple, complex natural forces.

Only mad dogs, environmentalists, liberal Democrats and RINOs would buy into such nonsense.

____________

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and Congress of Racial Equality, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

Climate change should be excluded from curriculum, says adviser

By Jessica Shepard

Climate change should not be included in the national curriculum, the government adviser in charge of overhauling the school syllabus in England has said.

Tim Oates, whose wide-ranging review of the curriculum for five- to 16-year-olds will be published later this year, said it should be up to schools to decide whether – and how – to teach climate change, and other topics about the effect scientific processes have on our lives.

In an interview with the Guardian, Oates called for the national curriculum “to get back to the science in science”. “We have believed that we need to keep the national curriculum up to date with topical issues, but oxidation and gravity don’t date,” he said. “We are not taking it back 100 years; we are taking it back to the core stuff. The curriculum has become narrowly instrumentalist.”

His stance marks a turning point in the development of the national curriculum. Oates’ intention is to substantially reduce the national curriculum. Under the previous government, the curriculum expanded to nearly 500 pages. His remarks also show he wants to reverse a shift in emphasis, made under the Labour government, under which teachers were encouraged to place great importance on scientific “issues” and not just scientific knowledge.

Climate change has featured in the national curriculum since 1995. In 2007, the topics “cultural understanding of science” and “applications and implications of science” were added to the curriculum for 11- to 14-year-olds.

But Bob Ward, policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, warned that Oates’ ideas might not be in pupils’ best interests and could make science less interesting for children.

“An emphasis on climate change in the curriculum connects the core scientific concepts to topical issues,” he said. “Certain politicians feel that they don’t like the concept of climate change. I hope this isn’t a sign of a political agenda being exercised.”

He said leaving climate change out of the national curriculum might encourage a teacher who was a climate change sceptic to abandon teaching the subject to their pupils. “This would not be in the best interests of pupils. It would be like a creationist teacher not teaching about evolution. Climate change is about science. If you remove the context of scientific concepts, you make it less interesting to children.”

THE SCHOOLS SHOULD FOCUS ON TEACHING STUDENTS HOW TO THINK NOT WHAT TO THINK

Broken Wind Turbine Blades Create Mountainous Waste Problem

Ultra-green Denmark admits it has no idea what to with a worrisome mountain of old and broken wind turbine blades. The composite material can’t be recycled.

In a story from Denmark’s leading business newspaper Dagbladet Børsen (June 10, 2011) experts warn, “As the wind becomes a central part of energy supply, a huge waste problem is growing with similar speed.”

Windy Scandinavia has hit this unanticipated hurdle because a key material in constructing wind turbines, carbon fiber composite, cannot be recycled and is fast filling landfills or else is being burned creating toxic emissions. The report admits, “a gigantic mountain of scrap blades is building up.”

Tom Løgstrup Andersen from Risø DTU, a senior development engineer who has spent two decades researching fiberglass composites admits, “When a turbine is operating, it produces green energy. But when it is worn, it is suddenly a problem. There exists no concrete solution to reusing blades from wind turbines.”

Poor Planning, Poor Technology Defeats Renewables Goal

Denmark has 6,000 wind turbines serving a population of 5.3 million and when the wind conditions are just right wind produces around 19 percent of its electricity. Yet despite huge financial investment no conventional power plant has yet been shut down while Danish electricity costs to consumers are the highest in Europe, according to research by energy researcher, Dr. Vic Mason.

Turbine blades routinely exceed 60 meters in length and nearly all are manufactured from thermoset plastics that cannot be recycled once their useful life has expired. The special plastic is the only material currently known that meets reliability standards due to their relatively high strength and low weight properties.

Dr. Mason cites evidence that many small turbines have collapsed in close proximity to human dwellings [1; 2; 3], and recently two big Danish wind turbines lost blades and scattered sharp pieces of glass fiber up to 500 meters from the tower base in high winds [4.]. Similar events have also been reported in Sweden, northern England and Scotland [5.]. Blade failure can be lethal and catastrophic as shown by video footage.

Indeed, the death toll from wind turbines in recent decades is huge when compared with nuclear accidents. In 2008 in the U.S. alone there were 41 worker fatalities and 16 non-worker deaths.

As the film shows, ironically, in high winds the turbines must be stopped because they are easily damaged. Carbon fiber has been the material of choice because of lightness and efficiency of construction. But the stress damage to fiber composites is poorly understood to begin with and wear and tear on blades can be considerable.

Also, over time a build-up of dead bugs, plus other wear and tear reduces the power generated by 20 to 30 percent. So for safety and efficiency the blades must be regularly replaced.

Europe Fears Toxic Waste Wind Turbine Mountain

Currently the global market for wind turbine blade is growing at over 10 percent growth per annum and worth around US$2 billion a year. But shortsighted thinking has lead to a situation where the greatest challenge now is to develop a profitable and safe recycling process for the unwanted carbon fiber blades.

Since 2004, most European Union (EU) member states passed laws forbidding landfill disposal of carbon fiber composites. Further, incineration of plastics is discouraged because of the potential release of toxic byproducts.

Professor Henning Albers from the Institut für Umwelt und Biotechnik, Hochschule Bremen, calculates that at current growth rates by 2034, there will be a mountain of 225,000 tonnes of unwanted rotor blade material waste. That’s a lot of landfill!

Investors Bail out of Renewables Sector

The aircraft industry, a long-time user of composite plastics has, itself, had little success in solving the landfill problem. The aviation industry has tried to minimize landfill tipping by grinding down the thermoset composites into granules for use as filler materials (e.g., in asphalt). But there isn’t a commercial market for such waste.

A report by Compositesworld.com agrees, “a major cost barrier in composites recycling is that collected composite waste must be sorted — one of the more labor-intensive aspects of conventional recycling processes.”

Summing up the lack of forward planning about wind turbines physicists and environmental activist, John Droz, jr, warns, “just because a power source is an alternative, or a renewable, does NOT automatically mean that it is better than any conventional or fossil fuel source.”

References:

[1.] B.B., 2000: “Vindmølle lækkede olie. Kollapset vindmølle ved Rærup erstattes snart af ny”. “[Wind turbine leaked oil. Collapsed turbine near Rærup will soon be replaced by a new one]”. Nørresundby Avis, 09-02-2000.

[2.] Bülow, T., 2001: “Exit Tjærborg”. Eltra magasinet, August 2001.

[3.] Ritzau, 2005: “Vindmølle mistede sine vinger”. “[Wind turbine lost its blades]”. Jyllands-Posten, 21-01-2005.

[4.] LiveLeak, 2008: “Windmill out of control” (Video of wind turbine exploding).

[5.] Krøyer, K., 2008: “Endnu en Vestas-mølle kastede vinge 100 meter væk i blæsten”. “[Yet another Vestas wind turbine throws its blade 100 metres in the wind]”. Ingeniøren, 25-02-2008

Hidden green tax in fuel bills

By David Derbyshire
Last updated at 8:15 AM on 9th June 2011

Hidden green taxes now make up a fifth of every household’s gas and electricity bills, energy campaigners warned last night.

Cash strapped families pay an average of £200 a year in stealth levies to subsidise Britain’s massive expansion of wind farms, solar panels and ‘environmentally friendly’ heating schemes.

Yesterday outraged campaigners called for an end to the secret subsidies and demanded power companies reveal how much their customers are paying for climate change policies .

Hidden green taxes make up a fifth of households’ gas and electricity bills, energy campaigners warned

The call came as the former head of the civil service, Lord Turnbull, demanded that politicians ‘stop frightening us and our children’ about the threat of global warming.

He demanded that Whitehall and ministers consider the damaging economic impact of blindly following the ‘climate change agenda’.

More…£200 shock on your power bill: Biggest squeeze on families since 1920s as fuel and food prices soar

Ministers fall for climate folly, warns ex-Civil Service chief

The attack on green taxes also came as one of Britain’s biggest power companies unveiled a round of price rises that will add nearly £200 to the average family bill.

Scottish Power blamed soaring wholesale prices for the 19 per cent increase in gas prices, and a 10 per cent rise in the cost of electricity.

But Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, said the soaring price of fuel was also the result of Britain’s ‘stubborn but wrong headed commitment to renewable energy’.
He said: ‘So called green stealth taxes are already adding 15 to 20 per cent to the average domestic power bill and even more to business users’.

Scottish Power has blamed soaring wholesale prices for the 19 per cent increase in gas prices, and a 10 per cent rise in the cost of electricity

Lord Turnbull demanded that politicians ‘stop frightening us and our children’ about global warming

The typical UK household spends £608 a year on gas and another £424 on electricity. Dr Peiser says green stealth taxes make up between £154 and £206 of that bill. For couples with large families – and large fuel demands – the figure is far higher.

‘And yet, despite the growing cost of these taxes, you won’t find any mention of them at all on your gas and electricity bills,’ he said.
‘That, of course, suits the Government down to the ground. If it raised the huge sums required to encourage renewable energy and limit carbon emission through general taxation it would make the Government itself very unpopular.

‘But by doing it through electricity and gas bills, the Government has cleverly ensure that it’s the power companies that take the blame.’
Under the Climate Change Act, the Government is legally bound to cut Britain’s C02 emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and 50 per cent by 2025.
To meet its targets – the toughest in the world – the Government is encouraging the building of 10,000 wind turbines. It also wants power companies to install £7billion worth of smart meters in homes.

Government wants companies to install £7bn worth of smart meters in homes

The meters record precisely how much gas and electricity a household is using and show how much it is costing, hopefully encouraging households to use less energy.

The meters send this information back to the utility firm, making estimated bills unnecessary.

The drive for wind turbines is being subsidised by the Renewable Obligation – a scheme that forces power companies to buy a proportion of their energy from renewable sources such as wind.

The scheme artificially inflates the cost of coal, oil and gas power, and subsidises green power, making investment in costly wind farms profitable. The cost is passed on in fuel bills.

A second scheme, the European Emission Trading Scheme, forces energy companies and heavy industry to offset greenhouse gas emissions with ‘carbon credits’ – permits that allow them to generate a certain amount of carbon dioxide. Energy companies and heavy industry can offset greenhouse gas emissions with ‘carbon credits’

The scheme has been hit by scandals including tax fraud, the re-sale of used carbon credits and the theft of millions of emission permits.
Once industries have used up their free allocation of credits, they must buy them on the open market – inflating the cost of energy even more.

Bills are pushed up further by the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target – which forces suppliers to subsidise home insulation and new boilers.
Bills are also inflated by the Feed In Tariffs – a scheme that encourages homes and small businesses to install wind turbines and solar panels by guaranteeing a fixed, high price for electricity they sell to the National Grid.

Dr Peiser said: ‘The Government has to come clean and force the power companies to make their bills fully transparent. ‘Only then will it be possible to see if a power company has been raising its prices unfairly and change supplier. And only then will the true cost of the Government’s mad rush towards renewable energy become clear.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2001181/Hidden-green-tax-fuel-bills-How-200-stealth-charge-slipped-gas-electricity-bill.html#ixzz1OsHYxMdO

See in today’s follow up story how Chancellor George Osborne has admitted that the aim is to make power derived from fossil fuels deliberately more expensive.

Four Dirty Secrets about Clean Energy

By Alex Epstein

For years, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has demanded that the U.S. and other industrialized countries cut carbon emissions to 20% of 1990 levels by 2050.

While most countries claim to support huge carbon caps, in practice they have resisted implementing them. The reason is simple: fossil fuels provide nearly 90% of the energy we use–the cheap, abundant fuel that powers modern farming, manufacturing, construction, transportation, and hospitals. The use of fossil fuels is directly correlated to quality and quantity of life, particularly through the generation of electricity ; in the past two decades, hundreds of millions of people have risen out of poverty because energy production has tripled in India and quadrupled in China, almost exclusively from carbon-based fuels. To drastically restrict carbon-based fuels, countries have conceded in practice, would be an economic disaster.

Now, the IPCC claims that the economics are on the side of drastic CO2 reductions. It recently announced that “Close to 80 percent of the world’s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies…”

This announcement is the latest claim by a growing coalition of environmentalists, businessmen, politicians, journalists, and academics that we can ban our fossil fuels and have cheap energy, too–through the panacea of “clean energy”–energy with minimal carbon emissions or other impacts. Clean energy advocates claim that a “clean energy economy” will be far more prosperous than our current “dirty energy” economy. Coal, oil, and natural gas supplies are finite and therefore bound to get more and more expensive as they run out, they argue. By contrast, we have an essentially unlimited, free, never-ending supply of sun and wind available to use–“free forever,” as Al Gore puts it.

What if we could use fuels that are not expensive, don’t cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home? We have such fuels. Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world’s energy needs for a full year. Tapping just a small portion of this solar energy could provide all of the electricity America uses. And enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of U.S. electricity demand.

To those who say the costs are still too high: I ask them to consider whether the costs of oil and coal will ever stop increasing if we keep relying on quickly depleting energy sources to feed a rapidly growing demand all around the world.
By contrast, Gore says, there are “renewable sources that can give us the equivalent of $1 per- gallon gasoline.”

To severely cap carbon emissions, then, won’t be an economic disaster but an economic boon. And it’s not just Al Gore saying this: myriad investors (such as venture capitalist Vinod Khosla), businessmen (such as oil-turned-wind magnate T. Boone Pickens), journalists (such as New York Times superstar Thomas L. Friedman), and politicians (including President Barack Obama), are on board.

The president of the Environmentalist Defense Fund sums up the sentiment: “The winners of the race to reinvent energy will not only save the planet, but will also make megafortunes… fixing global warming won’t be a drain on the economy. On the contrary, it will unleash one of the greatest floods of new wealth in history.”

All that is required, he and others say, is for the government to enact the right “clean energy policy.” These policy proposals vary, but all agree on two things: the government must drastically cap carbon emissions (Al Gore wants a ban on carbon-generated electricity by 2018 ) and the government must extensively fund clean energy research and projects to “unleash one of the greatest floods of new wealth in history.”

But before you pull any levers at the voting booth, you should know that there are some dirty secrets about the campaign for “clean energy.”

Dirty Secret #1: If “clean energy” were actually cheaper than fossil fuels, it wouldn’t need a policy.

Al Gore claims that he knows of “renewable sources that can give us the equivalent of $1 per gallon gasoline.” Then why doesn’t he go make a fortune on it by outcompeting gasoline-powered cars?

More broadly, if other sources of energy are so good, why must the government have a policy to support them and cripple their competitors? Wouldn’t the self-interest of utilities, of automakers, of factories make them more than eager to buy such fuels–and wouldn’t the self-interest of investors make them eager to put billions upon billions of dollars into these game-changing technologies? Energy is, after all, a multi-trillion dollar market in America alone. And if carbon-based fuels are as rapidly-depleting as we’re told, wouldn’t participants in the energy futures market be trying to make a killing by buying coal, oil, and gas contracts? And wouldn’t the rising prices of these fuels make it even easier for “clean energy” to compete?

Energy history is replete with examples of genuinely superior technologies outcompeting the status quo. Petroleum surpassed whale oil and several other now-forgotten products once it could provide the best light at the best price. Natural gas surpassed oil as a source of electricity generation for similar reasons. Can’t new sources of energy do the same?

“Clean energy” advocates often intimate that private investors and existing energy companies are too short-sighted to see the wondrous potential of their products. But this is far-fetched. Oil companies invest billions of dollars in research and development that will only pay off decades into the future. Can anyone doubt that with increasing worldwide demand for energy, they wouldn’t jump at the chance to add new sources of profitable energy to their portfolios? Or even if they are myopic, what about the enormous capital-allocating machine that is U.S. financial markets? Is Wall Street going to pass up on “one of the greatest new floods of wealth in history” by failing to make profitable investments?

But aren’t subsidies needed to correct some unfair advantage possessed by coal, oil, and natural gas? No. Solar and wind are the ones given an unfair advantage; per unit of energy produced, they already receive 90X more subsidies than oil and gas. And they have been subsidized for decades.

The one legitimate argument that energy investment in new technologies, including carbon-free ones, is too low is that heavy government taxation and environmental regulations drive many investors out of the energy sector. But “clean energy policies” such as cap-and-trade bills call for more taxes and regulations, not fewer.

The real reason why activists demand “clean energy policy” is simple: the “clean energy” sources they favor–especially solar and wind–are at present too expensive and unreliable to replace carbon-based fuels on a large scale. The only way activists can hope to have them adopted is to shove them down our throats.

Dirty Secret #2: Clean energy advocates want to force us to use solar, wind, and biofuels, even though there is no evidence these can power modern civilization.

For more than three decades, environmentalists have overwhelmingly favored replacing carbon-based fuels with “natural,” “renewable” energy coming directly from the sun–whether through direct sunlight (solar panels or solar thermal), wind (a product of currents created by the sun’s heat) or biofuels (plants nourished by the sun through photosynthesis.) They have generally opposed carbon-free nuclear energy and hydroelectric energy as unnecessary and insufficiently “green.”

They have acquired billions in taxpayer subsidies for solar, wind, and biofuels, in America and in “progressive” European countries. After three decades, the score is in. 86% of the world’s energy–the energy we use to make food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and everything else our livelihoods depend on–is produced by carbon-based fuels (coal, oil, natural gas). 6% is produced by hydroelectric power. 6% is produced by nuclear power. Thus, 98% of the world’s power generation is regarded as unacceptable by environmentalists. All of 2%–an expensive 2%–is produced by solar, wind, and biofuels. And despite incessant claims that carbon-based fuels will run out, the amount of fossil fuel practically accessible to us has increased greatly as we have discovered new sources for fossil fuels (as well as non-fossil sources such as uranium and thorium)–and if businesses are free to keep exploring, there is no evidence this will stop anytime soon.

So why haven’t solar and wind triumphed? After all, isn’t Al Gore right that the sun gives us more energy than we could ever need, “free forever”?

No. The sun certainly gives off a lot of energy–but harnessing it is anything but free. To harness any form of energy requires land, labor, and equipment. And solar, wind, and biofuels require far, far more resources to harness than other methods of power generation.

One reason is energy density. Most practical energy sources pack a high concentration of energy into a small amount of space, meaning a smaller swath of resources is needed to harness it. Oil, for example, is so energy dense that a gallon of it can move a Hummer and a load of passengers over 10 miles. Uranium has one million times the energy density of oil (though it takes far more complex equipment to extract the energy).

By contrast, the sun’s energy is highly diluted by the time it reaches earth, and therefore it requires massive quantities of land, equipment, materials, manpower, and energy (provided by fossil fuels, incidentally) to concentrate into electric power. A solar or wind farm takes on the order of 100 times the land, materials, and assembly energy to produce the same amount of kilowatt-hours as an equivalent nuclear or coal or natural gas plant –while a cornfield for ethanol requires 1,000 times the land to generate the same amount of energy, with so much energy required that the whole process loses energy by some estimates. The cost of such resources is why solar and wind have been expensive, marginal energy sources for so long.

Another major problem with solar and wind is that they produce energy only intermittently–wind is extremely variable, disappearing throughout the day; solar varies with the weather and disappears altogether at night. Our whole modern power system requires reliable energy, energy that can be counted on.

Consequently, any solar or wind installation attempting to generate reliable energy needs a backup source of energy. One hypothetical way to do this is to build additional solar/wind capacity and try to store it. But since this just adds much more cost, and since no compact, cost-effective storage option exists (large, water-pumping hydroelectric facilities are an option in some locations), the default option is to build additional fossil fuel plants to back up solar and wind power.

A typical case is Texas, where Governor Rick Perry has heralded his state as an archetype of renewable wind-power. But according to those managing the power grids, only “8.7% of the installed wind capability can be counted on as dependable capacity during the peak demand period for the next year.” This means that the wind turbines are hardly doing anything constructive; the natural gas “backup” is doing all the work. Some studies say that the wind turbines only add to CO2 emissions, since natural gas plants are far less efficient and use more fuel when they must cycle to compensate for erratic wind power.

But, you might ask, aren’t there other types of carbon-free energy that are more practical? The answer is yes and no–there are promising types of carbon-free energy, but “clean energy policy” and its environmentalist leaders will always stop or slow them for being insufficiently “green.”

Dirty Secret #3: There are promising carbon-free energy sources–hydroelectric and nuclear–but “clean energy” policies oppose them as not “green” enough.

In 1975, a fledgling energy industry reported that its members were producing electricity at a total cost of less than half of what coal plants could. Better yet, this industry’s technology generated virtually no pollution and no CO2. Better yet still, this industry was in its relative infancy; thousands of scientists and engineers were brimming with ideas about how to make power-generation better, cheaper, more efficient.

If the environmentalist movement–the movement leading today’s “clean energy” campaign–was truly interested in maximum human progress, including making our surroundings maximally conducive to human life, it would have celebrated this industry: nuclear power. Instead, environmentalists effectively destroyed it with lies and propaganda–a tactic they are repeating with the earthquake-and-tsunami-stricken nuclear reactors in Japan.

Environmentalists have always claimed that their concern is safety. But the most reliable indication of a technology’s safety is how many deaths it has caused per unit of energy produced. In the capitalist world, nuclear power in its entire history has not led to a single death from meltdowns, radiation, or any of the allegedly intolerable dangers cited by nuclear critics. This does not mean that deaths are impossible, but as scientists have repeatedly shown, the worst-case scenario for a nuclear reactor is far better than, say, the ravages of a dam breaking or of a natural gas explosion.

In reality, all the “safety” objections come down to the Green premise that nuclear power is “unnatural” and therefore must be bad. Nuclear power is radioactive, they say–not mentioning that so is the sun, and that taking a walk, let alone an airplane ride, exposes you to far more radioactivity than does living next to a nuclear power plant. A nuclear plant could be bombed by terrorists, and bring about some sort of Hiroshima 2, they say–not mentioning that the type of uranium used in a nuclear plant and a nuclear bomb are completely different, and that the uranium in a plant can’t explode.

Nuclear power generates waste, they say–not mentioning that the amount of waste is thousands of times smaller than for any other practical source of energy, that it can be safely stored, and that there are many technologies for utilizing the waste to generate even more energy. Still, Greenpeace proclaims: “Greenpeace has always fought — and will continue to fight – vigorously against nuclear power because it is an unacceptable risk to the environment and to humanity. The only solution is to halt the expansion of all nuclear power, and for the shutdown of existing plants.”

The practical result of all this hysteria was to make permission to build nuclear power plants nearly impossible to get, to impose an astronomical number of unnecessary “safety” requirements that served only to drive up price, and to make the whole process of building a plant a multi-decade affair.

Today, environmentalists say, with relish, that nuclear power can’t compete on the market–“Nuclear is dying of an incurable attack of market forces,” says solar-peddler Amory Lovins–even though before their intervention, it did compete, and was winning. Who knows how spectacularly it could produce cheap, abundant, carbon-free energy today–were it not for the opposition of those who claim to be concerned about carbon emissions?

Nuclear power is not an isolated target. Environmentalists have spent the last three decades shutting down as many hydroelectric dams as possible, despite hydro’s proven track record as a cheap, reliable source of carbon-free power (albeit one more limited than nuclear since there are only so many suitable river sites for hydropower).

The reason is this: environmentalism isn’t just about minimizing our carbon “footprint”–it’s about reducing any footprint on nature: on land, rivers, swamps, animals, bugs. Hydroelectric power, while it doesn’t emit CO2, dramatically changes the natural flow of the rivers where it is used. Nuclear power, in addition to requiring large industrial structures, deals in “unnatural” high-energy, radioactive materials and processes. Therefore, it is not, says Al Gore, “truly clean energy.”

Dirty Secret #4: The environmentalists behind clean energy policy are anti-energy.

If you think that there might be some form of practical “clean energy” that could appease the environmentalists–say, geothermal–you’re missing the point. The whole environmentalist idea of a minimal “footprint” is fundamentally anti-energy. Mass-energy production requires making a substantial impact on nature–in diverted land, in power lines, in any byproducts or waste–and therefore environmentalists can always find something to object to. And this includes solar and wind.

For all the talk of “being green,” solar and wind require far greater amounts of land and materials-use than practical energy–their land “footprint” and resource usage is far larger. Huge, 400-foot tall wind-turbines with 150-foot blades and noise known to cause unbearable headaches a mile away do not exactly embody the environmentalist ideal of “living in harmony with nature.” Nor are tens or hundreds or thousands of square miles of solar panels. Nor are the enormous transmission lines necessary to bring energy from, say, Nevada to California. And so while environmentalists are happy to wax about solar and wind in the abstract while opposing existing power sources, once the shovels start hitting the ground, in practice they often oppose it.

Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the biggest opponent of Cape Wind , a windmill project off the coast of Nantucket. Environmentalists were the first to object to a giant solar project in the Middle of the Mojave Desert in California.

But where are we supposed to get our energy? “Conservation,” environmentalists answer, which is code for “deprivation.” When pushed, the leaders of the movement admit that they think that humans need to live far more modestly, with perhaps a few solar panels on top of our homes (Amory Lovins attempts this, and has acknowledged agonizing over whether he could accommodate a dog for his daughter), that we need to do with a lot less, and that we need to reduce the world’s population.

As climate-change star Paul Ehrlich says: “Whatever problem you’re interested in, you’re not going to solve it unless you also solve the population problem. Whatever your cause, it’s a lost cause without population control.”

The Sierra Club advocates “development of adequate national and global policies to curb energy over-use and unnecessary economic growth.” This was written in 1974, when the energy-hungry computer revolution was brand-new. Had we listened to them, it wouldn’t have had the power to get off the ground. And they are no exception to this anti-development mentality: “Giving society cheap, abundant energy at this point,” says climate change star Paul Ehrlich, “would be the moral equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.” Or, Amory Lovins: “If you ask me, it’d be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it. We ought to be looking for energy sources that are adequate for our needs, but that won’t give us the excesses of concentrated energy with which we could do mischief to the earth or to each other.”

This is the mentality wielding influence over our energy future. Can one imagine any sort of energy that it would find favorable? Consider the prospect of geothermal energy, which would use heat from the inside of the earth’s crust. Al Gore claims to support this. To be used en masse, such energy (as yet unproven) would require drilling tens of thousands of feet deep. Given environmentalists’ opposition to offshore drilling, can anyone imagine they will actually support geothermal energy in practice?

Anyone who genuinely desires even better energy in the future than we enjoy today must cut all ties with the anti-development environmentalist movement and embrace industrial development.

Instead, the entire “clean energy” movement embraces environmentalists as allies. The Sierra Club, Ehrlich, and Lovins are all regular advisors to government on energy policy. While President Obama isn’t as extreme as they are, we can see their anti-nuclear agenda in his energy plan–which is focused on solar and wind, and includes a couple billion in loan guarantees to a single nuclear plant (this is notable only because the 2008 Democratic platform contained zero references to nuclear energy).

The same is true for “clean energy” advocates such as Thomas L. Friedman and Bill Gates; they advocate nuclear, but only half-heartedly, with infinite regulation. So, in practice “clean energy policy” will mean preserving the draconian controls on nuclear power, stunting its growth, while subsidizing the impractical fuels that environmentalists least object to.

The end result of this is pure destruction. This includes destruction of what “clean energy” is supposed to ensure: a livable climate. The number one precondition of a livable climate is industrial-scale energy. Loose talk of a “climate change catastrophe” evades the fact that industrial energy makes catastrophes non-catastrophic. In Africa, a drought can wipe out hundreds of thousands of lives thanks to that continent’s lack of capitalism and resultant lack of industrial energy. In America, we irrigate so well that deserts have become among the most desirable places to live (Southern California, Las Vegas).

Left free to discover and harness energy, human beings can adapt to changes in weather. Anyone who cares about the plight of the poor must recognize that what they desperately need is not a stagnant average global temperature but capitalism, including cheap, affordable fossil fuels now, and the freedom to find even better fuels later, unhampered by environmental hysteria.

If we want more, better, energy, we should be considering, not policies to control the energy economy, but policies to allow free markets and true competition (not government-rigged stuff). And let the best fuel win.

Alex Epstein is a fellow at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, focusing on business issues. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/06/03/four-dirty-secrets-about-clean-energy/#ixzz1OWHROFnf

Oscar-nominated filmmaker tries to ban critical video

We wanted you to be the first to know that Josh Fox has responded to valid journalistic questions about his documentary Gasland by stifling the freedom of the press.

As you probably know, I traveled to Chicago for a Q&A where I forced Fox to admit the documentary hid facts that contradicted his scaremongering about drilling for natural gas.

And Fox’s response when we posted the video on YouTube – he got his lawyers to have YouTube pull it down.

That’s right – he has tried to use lawyers to silence a journalist from asking difficult questions and putting his answers on the Internet.

Fox’s excuse is a breach of copyright. In a video that is 3:10 minuntes long, we used 26 seconds of Gasland only to show how Fox was being unethical and misleading. It is a classic case of “fair use” of someone’s work for the purpose of criticism and is totally legally allowed if not encouraged under fair use law.

But Fox does not want any criticism. He does not want any freedom of speech.

We now have to hire lawyers to try and have our journalism restored to our own YouTube channel. In the meantime we have put the video up on Vimeo (a YouTube rival). You can see it here until Fox and his lawyers try to force Vimeo to pull it down.

We will fight all these attempts to silence our journalism. We have been here before. The Society of Environmental Journalists turned off my mic for asking Al Gore tough questions. The UN used armed security to try and stop me asking difficult questions of a scientist and a politician at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen. And environmentalists attacked me on live television for daring to question the orthodoxy.

And the makers of the Age of Stupid, another eco-disaster fantasy, had me removed from their press gallery for asking the “wrong questions”. They also took legal action to have the blog showing their behavior removed from the internet.

They did not succeed and Josh Fox will not succeed.

You can watch my questioning of Josh Fox here. Please send it around to as many people as possible. It needs to be seen before Fox and his lawyers try to crush journalism again.

Thanks!

Ann & Phelim