Headlines with the “Huh” Factor

by Bill Chameides | September 28th, 2010
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

Permalink | 6 comments

The island of Palau is apparently looking to expand its economic base of tourism, agriculture, and fishing with its deal to drill exploratory oil wells. The good news? The president reportedly promised to use any proceeds “to make Palau a green country.”

Sometimes the news just makes you shake your head.

Paving the Way for Oil in Eden

Palau, a low-lying island nation located in the Pacific, is incredibly beautiful and ecologically pristine. That’s not just my opinion; PBS featured it among the 18 “magical vistas” covered so far in its Living Eden series on natural history. Now comes an interesting twist: the island, with guidance from the World Bank, has inked a deal with an oil exploration company to drill two exploratory wells by May 2011 to assess just how much petroleum lies beneath paradise.

It could be worse. At least they’re not putting up a parking lot.

Chamber of Commerce Endorses WV Dem, An Obama Rubber Stamp?

Joe Manchin, the Democratic governor of West Virginia, is running for the U.S. Senate seat long held by the late Robert Byrd. His Republican opponent, businessman John Raese, accuses him of being a rubber stamp for Obama’s environmental agenda. What’s interesting is that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, not exactly a cheerleader for the president’s environmental programs, endorses Manchin. Can this be? Yes, the chamber endorses Manchin (as does the National Rifle Association).

But what about Manchin as an Obama rubber stamp? Hardly. Manchin has made his opposition to the House’s cap-and-trade bill crystal clear, and voiced disdain for similar environmental proposals put forth this year (see here and here).

What Manchin has endorsed is a state law that would require West Virginia to get 25 percent of its electricity from alternative or renewable energy facilities, including “clean” coal, by 2025. (Read about “clean” coal here, here, and here.)

Somehow during election season, an endorsement for a somewhat diversified electricity portfolio has been translated into a “cap and trade Manchin-style.” A new ad released by the Raese campaign today echoes that mistranslation: “It’s Obama’s cap-and-trade bill, West Virginia-style.” And the ad itself echoes what Raese said in an interview with RealClearPolitics on Sunday: “Do the people of West Virginia trust a governor in the state of West Virginia who has already implemented cap and trade here in West Virginia?”

Huh? Even California’s cap-and-trade bill won’t be implemented until 2012. You’ve heard the expression, “If you build it, they will come”? This political season it could be: “If you say it, they will believe.”

80 percent Vs. 15 Percent: Germany Dreams Big as U.S. Inches Toward Progress on Renewables

The only environmental energy bill that has a hope of passing in the Senate’s soon-to-arrive lame duck session is a provision that would require utilities to derive 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021. Fifteen percent may be ambitious for the United States but not for Germany.

The Germans reportedly already have us beat with 16 percent of their electricity coming from renewables, and, thanks to a far-reaching, innovative energy plan ($ub req’d), are moving toward a target of 80 percent by 2050. And they’re not stopping there. They’re trying to figure out how to power their grid 100-percent by renewables. It’s not only possible, Jochen Flasbarth, the head of the German Federal Environment Agency, told ClimateWire ($ub req’d); it’s “also needed.”

Lest you think there’s an economic cost to bear, the German economy is set to grow by 3 percent this year, compared to U.S. growth projections of 2.6 percent. How does Germany fuel its economic growth? In part via exports of wind turbines and solar panels. What else?

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  1. Dominic
    Oct 15, 2010

    It is currently fashionable to point to Germany as the exemplar of successful renewables development policy. The truth is more complicated and much less encouraging. Frondel and co-workers in a 2009 paper have this to say: ‘This paper critically reviews the current centerpiece of the German promotion of renewable energy technologies, the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), focusing on its cost and the associated implications for job creation and emissions reductions. The paper will show that, by and large, government policy has failed to harness the market incentives needed to ensure a viable and cost-effective introduction of renewable energies into Germany’s energy portfolio. To the contrary, the government’s support mechanisms have in many respects subverted these incentives, resulting in massive expenditures that show little long-term promise for stimulating the economy, protecting the environment, or increasing energy security’. [Page 4.] And they conclude: ‘Hence, although Germany’s promotion of renewable energies is commonly portrayed in the media as setting a “shining example in providing a harvest for the world” (The Guardian 2007), we would instead regard the country’s experience as a cautionary tale of massively expensive environmental and energy policy that is devoid of economic and environmental benefits. As other European governments emulate Germany by ramping up their promotion of renewables, policy makers should scrutinize the logic of supporting energy sources that cannot compete on the market in the absence of government assistance’. [Page 20.] Full download here: This is well worth a read. Especially in view of your last sentence.

  2. MattN
    Oct 5, 2010

    The physical size of the U.S. makes renewables very difficult. There’s only so much real estate that is ideal for huge solar projects. Most of that is in the west. Unfortunately, the problem is transmitting that power from where it’s made (west) to where it’s needed (east). There’s tremendous transmission losses that just make it way too expensive. Ask T. Boone Pickens why his solar project he made commercials about a few years ago never got going. We just don’t have the hours of sunlight or the wind here in the east like they do out west to make solar and wind power more than a bit player. That’s the way it is…

    • Bill Chameides
      Oct 15, 2010

      Don’t quite agree. Check out the recent NAS/NRC reports on America’s energy future.

      • MattN
        Oct 18, 2010

        I don’t see why you disagree (other than it being ME that said it). The NAS/NRC report won’t change physics or the reality of the situation. Transmitting power is becoming exponentailly more expensive and difficult. I am not the only one saying this. You can’t store power efficiently so you have to make what you use, and use what you make. Who’s going to use 4000Mw of wind power in the TX panhandle (T Boondoggle’s project)? No one. So you have to transmit it to where you DO use it. That is a HUGE amount of money. It’s flat not going to happen, Doc. You need less pie-in-the-sky and more “this is the reality” entries…

        • Bill Chameides
          Nov 10, 2010

          MattN – you really need to read the reports. Those things are discussed.

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