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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Power Shift 2009 is Reactivating Activism, Says Jerome Ringo

By Jesse Jenkins, reporting for the Energy Collective and WattHead - Energy News and Commentary

[Update, 3/16/09: Mr. Ringo's keynote address and sick intro video (courtesy of Power Shift/Energy Action Coalition's amazing video team) now added at end of post]

I grabbed a few minutes amidst the buzz and activity of Power Shift 2009 with Jerome Ringo, the President of the Apollo Alliance. As 12,000 young people come together for the largest gathering of citizens on climate and clean energy solutions in U.S. history, Mr. Ringo discusses progress made, challenges ahead, and the unique and critical role young people play in securing a clean energy future.

Jesse Jenkins: Jerome, as President of the Apollo Alliance, you are a leading advocate of a new, clean energy economy. The Apollo Alliance has spent years incubating the vision of a future run on clean energy sources that once again provide good jobs for America. You must be pretty happy to hear President Obama move that effort to the center of his agenda with his Joint Address to Congress last week.

Jerome Ringo: The Apollo Alliance has been working for years to frame the issue of green jobs and how they can help both the economy and our environment. Luckily, we now have a president who gets it.

The green jobs programs and initiatives promoted by the Apollo Alliance are an answer to the nation’s economic issues. But it goes beyond that … to address the greatest environmental issue we’ve faced in a generation, global warming, as well as the national security issues we face, as we watch body bags coming back from where we’re fighting to defend oil interests on foreign soil.

Investment in green is a win-win-win-win for America and for our communities, and we are fortunate to have a president that gets that.

You are one of the keynote speakers later this evening at Power Shift 2009, where close to 12,000 young people will gather to hear you and other leaders speak. What do you see as the significance of an event like Power Shift 2009?

The Apollo Alliance is about building a coalition around clean energy. The most important part of any coalition that wants to change the status quo is how you prepare the next generation to deal with those issues.

Unfortunately, because of the practices of my generation, we are leaving these young people with one heck of a mess … global warming, the economy is floundering, and we’re being held over an oil barrel by foreign governments. We’ve got to prepare a generation to not only receive the problems my generation created, but to fix them.

With President Obama now pushing for many of the same things Apollo’s coalition has been calling for, new opportunities for significant progress are on the horizon. Of course, the real work is just beginning. What is the role of young people in advancing clean energy solutions, overcoming obstacles and seizing those opportunities in the coming year?

Unfortunately there’s a state of urgency due to the state of the economy and it’s seen that there may be a lack of resources to address these issues. That’s a challenge. So it’s going to take an effort to reactivate activism in this country.

What we can do as green leaders in the movement today, is to invest in the young leaders of this movement to prepare for the challenges ahead.

The election of Barack Obama sent a powerful signal about the power of the voice of young people in this country. Young people have successfully reactivated activism in this country and restored the power of young voices in this country. Whether they are speaking through organized events or through email, the power of young people in moving the presidency forward and bringing a new face to America can be replicated in moving the green movement forward and responding to the many economic and national security challenges we face today.

Thank you Jerome for speaking to me. I’m looking forward to hearing more from you at tonight’s Power Shift 2009 keynote address, and from the voices of the 12,000 young people who are gathered here to repower and reclaim their future.

Introducing Jerome Ringo:

Jerome Ringo speaking at Power Shift 2009 (keynote address):

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Friday, February 27, 2009

PowerShift 2009: 12,000 Young People Arriving in DC to Repower, Reclaim Their Future

I've just arrived at Power Shift 2009, the largest gathering of citizens fighting for a clean energy future in United States history. The conference, organized by the Energy Action Coalition, is bringing together nearly 12,000 young people from all over the country to harness resources, make connections and take action to repower and reclaim their futures.

Power Shift 2009 offers a unique look at the normally widely distributed and networked youth climate and clean energy movement, the largest and most well-organized youth movement in decades. I'll be reporting for the Energy Collective and WattHead - Energy News and Commentary throughout this historic gathering of young climate and clean energy activists, which begins today and runs through Monday, March 2nd, but here is a preview of what's ahead:

: Power Shift attendants will hear from a remarkable range of speakers, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Obama administration members, like EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, green jobs visionaries Van Jones and Majora Carter, politicos like John Podesta, and of course, top young leaders from across the youth climate movement.

Workshops and Trainings: Attendees will arm themselves with skills and knowledge at dozens of workshops on everything from how to use new media tools to enhance campaign and online activism to how to effectively talk to press and elected officials.

Diversity of Actions - From Lobby Day to Dirty Energy Protests: Of course, these young climate and clean energy advocates are not content to merely learn, network and discuss, they are committed to powerful action to repower and reclaim their energy future. That's why the weekend will culminate in two historic actions on March 2nd. First, over 5,000 Power Shifters are expected to storm Capitol Hill on Monday for the largest citizen lobby day on climate change in U.S. history. That's not just largest for young people, but the largest citizen lobby day on climate, period.

These dedicated young people will get prepped on the up-to-the-minute political situation in Congress, be trained to head inside "the belly of the beast" itself and then deliver their concerns and recommend solutions straight to their representatives.

I was there at Power Shift 2007's lobby day, when, for more than six hours, the halls of every Congressional office building was filled with young Power Shift attendees, some in suits, some in Power Shift T-Shirts, some wearing green hard hats (symbolizing the green jobs and clean energy future they were lobbying for). They took over the halls of Congress for an entire day, and they clearly made a powerful impression on staff and members of Congress alike, many of whom frequently poked their heads out just to see what was going on. When was the last time you had young people taking anything like that level of engagement with Congress?

And on the very same day, after Power Shift Lobby Day has subsided, there will be a coordinated, symbolic "direct action" that makes it clear that young people are also willing to put their bodies on the line, when necessary, to defend their future. Independent from Power Shift and separately organized by a coalition of allied organizations, the Capitol Climate Action will be the largest act of civil disobedience protesting dirty energy and calling for a transition to a clean, just energy economy in U.S. history. Located at the site of a power plant that heats and lights the Capitol complex using a mix of coal and natural gas, the mass civil disobedience will take a powerful symbolic stand against dirty energy sources, as over 2,500 people, both young and old, are expected to turn out on Monday.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this coming weekend is the diversity of tactics on display, a hallmark of the savvy and strategic youth climate and clean energy movement: from mass civil disobedience to savvy lobbying inside the Capitol itself, the 12,000 young people coming to Power Shift 2009, and the hundreds of thousands of youth climate and energy activists organizing around the country, are well organized, well trained, and full of passion to build a clean, prosperous and more just energy economy in America and the world.

Join us at the Energy Collective and here at WattHead over the coming days for a look at the events unfolding at Power Shift 2009...

Related Stories:

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Will Obama Put Real Money on the Table for Clean Energy?

Originally posted at the Breakthrough Institute

For those paying close attention, there was a nugget of critical energy and climate policy news buried at the tail end of a Saturday New York Times story focused on President Obama's budget plans:

On energy policy, Mr. Obama's budget will show new revenues by 2012 from his proposal to require companies to buy permits from the government for greenhouse gas emissions above a certain cap. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that would rise to $300 billion a year by 2020.

Since companies would pass their costs on to customers, Mr. Obama would have the government use most of the revenues for relief to families to offset higher utility bills and related expenses. The remaining revenues would cover his proposals for $15 billion a year in spending and tax incentives to develop alternative energy.
Many climate advocates will no doubt read this with excitement at Obama's apparent commitment to move forward with a cap and trade proposal, even during these tough economic times. But if you're looking closely at the public investments Obama plans to pair with his carbon pricing proposal, you've got to start worrying: if Obama remains committed to spending just $15 billion per year to spur a new energy economy, America will fail in that endeavor. Cap or no cap, I'm not sure you can find one energy expert that thinks the public investments required to build a new energy economy will cost that little.

I know I may be chastised for criticizing Obama so soon after he delivered an unprecedented clean energy investment in the stimulus. But let's be clear: those investments were just the beginning, and Obama needs to articulate a clear and viable plan to make the sustained commitment and ongoing public investments necessary to truly build a new energy economy.

The public is overwhelmingly behind President Obama right now, and if he was elected with a mandate to do anything beyond stem the economic crisis, it was a mandate to build a new, clean energy economy that finally secures America's energy independence and averts potentially catastrophic climate change.

Yet Once you start looking at the critical areas where public investment in a clean energy economy is necessary - research, development and demonstration, or RD&D; critical infrastructure, like a modernized electrical grid; deployment incentives to spur emerging technologies; and efficiency incentives, financing and other investments to retrofit American homes, businesses and factories - it's not hard to see why the $15 billion per year Obama has pledged is simply not up to the task.

RD&D: There's widespread consensus - including among Obama advisers like White House science adviser John Holdren, Sec. of Energy Steven Chu, and Obama campaign energy adviser Dan Kammen - that public investments in clean energy RD&D alone need to rise to $15-30 billion annually, putting them on the same scale as other national innovation priorities (e.g. health research at NIH, military R&D, etc.) and past R&D initiatives (e.g. Apollo, Manhattan, Project Independence, etc.).

Building a 21st century electrical grid: building a modern electrical grid, including long-distance transmission expansion and the integration of smart grid (and probably utility-scale energy storage) technologies will cost on the scale of hundreds of billions over the coming decade or two. Not all of that will have to come from the public sector, but a sizable chunk will, maybe $5-15 billion annually. Breakthrough proposes creating a National Electricity Modernization Authority to facilitate and finance grid modernization activities across the country, investing $50 billion in public seed money to get the Authority started. More on what it will take to build a 21st Century Grid in an upcoming post...

Driving clean energy deployment: Incentives to spur the deployment of emerging clean energy technologies and drive down their cost are also necessary, even with a cap and trade program in place. Denmark provides a perfect case study of the necessity of pairing carbon pricing with direct investments in clean energy technology deployment. Looking elsewhere in Europe, it's also not hard to see that the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme doesn't preclude Germany's sizable investment in solar deployment, a roughly 50 cents/kWh feed-in tariff, for example, nor does it stop nations across the EU from putting in place more modest deployment incentives for wind, solar, biomass and other renewables. Here in the United States, the three-year PTC expansion in the stimulus is projected to cost $13 billion over the next ten years, and the cost of supporting emerging renewable energy technologies will only increase as the scale of their deployment ramps up.

If the United States launched a cohesive strategy to support a whole portfolio of emerging clean energy technologies (for both electricity and transportation), aimed at achieving economies of scale and improving price and performance, it could cost on the scale of $30 billion annually before long. Those are smart investments though to make clean energy cheap over time (in real, unsubsidized terms), especially when compared to the total expected cost of cap and trade ($100-300 billion/year). Since deployment incentives can be targeted strategically at specific technologies, they will cost our economy and taxpayers far less than the blunt instrument that is carbon pricing; why make all energy more expensive than solar (a three-to-five-fold increase in the price of energy) in order make solar competitive when you can design a deployment incentive specifically for solar that accomplishes the same goal at a fraction of the cost?

Rebuilding an efficient economy: Spurring widespread and ongoing energy efficiency retrofits and upgrades across multiple sectors of the US economy will require major public investments as well, particularly in the form of low-cost financing to bring down the high capital costs of efficiency retrofits - what I call the "Capital Barrier." On the higher end, Architecture 2030 recently called for a $171 billion, two-year stimulus investment to bring down the Capital Barrier for efficiency, predominantly through low-interest mortgages and loans. Green for All, the Center on Wisconsin Strategies, and Center for American Progress have called for a much more modest investment of $15 billion over five years to underwrite the establishment of a $50 billion public revolving loan fund to bring down the Capital Barrier for efficiency retrofits. The stimulus bill, with at least $8.5 billion in annual investments in efficiency gives us another scale reference. And of course, those investments merely begin the task of building a more efficient American economy.

In summary, it's no wonder the Breakthrough Institute is joined by the the Apollo Alliance, and the Center for American Progress in proposing public investments in clean energy on the scale of $50 billion annually. Obama's plans to spend just $15 billion a year simply falls far short of what is needed (even after the good start he's made in the stimulus).

So what will it take to get Obama to double, triple or even quadruple his commitment to the strategic public investments necessary to spark a clean energy economy?

Now, I'm not wedded to financing these investments entirely (or even at all) with money from carbon price revenue (especially since I'm not confident cap and trade will pass soon enough to provide a near-term revenue stream). But if the money doesn't come from carbon auctions, it's gotta come from elsewhere (and soon). Does Obama have a plan to finance the scale and type of clean energy investments on the scale we need?

Obama says that sparking a clean energy economy is his top priority (after getting the economy out of crisis). It's time for him to put (real) money on the table.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Time's Bryan Walsh Takes Us Beyond Carbon Pricing

Cross-posted from the Breakthrough Institute

In his latest piece, Time magazine's energy and climate writer Bryan Walsh takes readers beyond carbon pricing, to look at the more active government engagement in energy innovation necessary in the race against climate change.

"[A] growing chorus of experts is beginning to doubt whether cap-and-trade alone will reduce CO2 enough to curb runaway climate change," Walsh writes, before turning to the need for new energy innovation on an unprecedented scale.

As Walsh writes, "If the U.S. is to invent its way out of climate change, which some suggest is our only hope, it will need to spend [a] lot more and a lot more wisely on basic energy research."

Selected excerpts after the jump...

The question is, how do we attempt to correct a problem [climate change] we cannot yet fathom? The conventional wisdom is that the U.S. and other countries need to put a gradually declining mandatory cap on carbon emissions, which will effectively put a price on greenhouse gas pollution, accelerate the adoption of clean energy technologies and roll back warming. ...

But a growing chorus of experts is beginning to doubt whether cap-and-trade alone will reduce CO2 enough to curb runaway climate change. They argue instead that the solution to an unforeseen problem is unforeseen answers: breakthrough technological discoveries and energy solutions we haven't yet imagined. That might include economical clean coal plants, vastly improved energy storage, even something as far out as fusion. Within the green-energy industry, however, the consensus is that the U.S., the country that built the atom bomb and landed on the moon, is falling far short of the research and development investment needed to seed those discoveries. "We need to pull all the levels at our disposal to raise demand for clean energy," says John Denniston, a partner focusing on green tech with the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. "The federal government needs to make this a top priority for the country -- but at the moment, that's not happening." ...

Denniston says that in recent years, the federal government has allocated about $1 billion a year on energy research. That might sound like a lot, but the energy industry as a whole is worth some $1.6 trillion a year, and the federal government today spends less than a fifth of what it did on energy R & D in the 1970s and 1980s. Compare that with annual federal R & D spending in the health-care industry, which is some 30 times higher, says Denniston, even though the two industries are similar in annual revenue. "Show me an industry that is investing less than 1/10th of 1% of its annual revenue on research and development, and I'll show you an industry that is not poised for the future," says Denniston.

If the U.S. is to invent its way out of climate change, which some suggest is our only hope, it will need to spend lot more and a lot more wisely on basic energy research. ...

Scientists will also have to spend smarter, focusing research on rapidly funneling workable energy solutions. Take energy storage -- one of the chief limitations of many renewables is that they are intermittent, producing energy only when the sun shines or the wind blows. Carbon pricing and renewable energy standards can help speed the adoption of wind and solar in the marketplace by helping alternatives compete with fossil fuels. But only a better form of energy storage, which could be anything from superior batteries to artificial photosynthesis, can make renewables truly capable of replacing fossil fuels, and that's still a question of research. Just as when we raced to the moon, we don't have the luxury today of lumbering through the usual slow process of scientific discovery. "We don't have time to just publish articles in journals," says Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "We need an open competition for the most compelling ideas."

In fact, a new Brookings report [see Breakthrough's post here] suggests creating dozens of energy discovery-innovation institutes, which would serve as hubs for a national effort to remake energy, from the way it is produced, stored and distributed to the way people buy and use it. Each institute would receive up to $200 million in federal funding each year -- part of an estimated total federal R & D goal of $20 to $30 billion a year -- and would aim to help rapidly transfer new ideas from the lab to the marketplace. "We need to push closer to commercialization, fast," says Muro.

The Brookings idea is one among many, but what's clear is that while the country is increasingly coming to agree on the scale of the threat posed by climate change, we have yet to pose solutions that can match that scale. Taking federal energy R & D off life support is one way, but we'll need others. Properly funding energy R & D won't be easy, especially in an economic downturn when competition for federal dollars is fierce. But selling the public on a massive energy research project might be easier than passing a national carbon cap-and-trade program, at least initially -- Americans are familiar with ambitious (and successful) national projects, including the Apollo program and, in many ways, World War II. "We need to do all of the above and more," says Muro. And as science is showing us, we need to do it faster than we thought.

Click here to read the full story in Time.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sec. of State Clinton and Obama Climate Envoy Discuss U.S.-China Clean Energy Collaboration

At a public event at an efficient co-generation power plant in China, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama Climate Envoy Todd Stern both discuss the importance of partnership and collaboration to develop and deploy clean, cheap energy technologies to power sustainable development in China.

Are these the first signs of a new Obama Administration strategy for U.S.-China engagement on climate change? Are Clinton and Stern preparing to embark on a strategy focused explicitly on harnessing the best and brightest researchers, entrepreneurs and businesses and leveraging major investments on both sides of the Pacific to develop and deploy clean, cheap and scalable energy sources?

I'll be writing more about this tomorrow, but for now, the full transcript of their remarks are below. I'm interested in your reaction to these remarks and your thoughts on how the United States and the Obama Administration should engage China to ensure a climate stability and to help drive sustainable development in China?

Dialogue on U.S.-China Partnership on Clean Energy
Monday, 23 February 2009, 2:22 pm
Press Release: US State Department

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
With Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern And President of GE Energy China Jack Wen
Taiyang Gong Power Plant, Beijing, China
February 21, 2009

MR. WEN: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to our dialogue on U.S.-China partnership on clean energy. I am Jack Wen, business leader for GE Energy in China.

Madame Secretary, as a company formed by Thomas Edison 130 years ago in your home state, New York, and also headquartered in Schenectady for renewable energy, GE is very honored to be part of your first trip to China as Secretary of State.

And also, GE has been working in China for the past 100 years, and we also view China as our other home.

And also, we are very delighted that Secretary of State, in her dedication, visits the power plant today. And this project really leads the industry in demonstrating advanced technology, maximized efficiency, and also minimized environmental impact. And GE is very proud to be able to participate in this project by providing our high-efficiency gas turbine equipment and technology. And this is another great example of U.S.-China cooperation and friendship.

And now, let me introduce Todd Stern. He is the U.S. President's personal representative, the Secretary of State's Special Envoy on Climate Change. He is holding a critical role, in terms of driving U.S. international policy on climate change.

So, with that, Mr. Stern. (Applause.)

MR. STERN: Thank you very, very much. Thank you, Jack. I am delighted to be here. I want to give special thanks to not only Jack, but to Mike Norbom of GE, and Wang Yongliang and (inaudible) who run this plant.

I am very pleased to be here in China on my first trip as the administration’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, and I am delighted to be joined by all of you here: students and researchers, faculty from Tsinghua University’s clean energy research and education center, and Tsinghua’s Institute of Energy and Environment Economics.

And I am extremely impressed by this plant. This is exactly the kind of thing that the United States and China have to do together. It is, as you know, a co-generation lifecycle plant. It not only produces electricity, but captures the heat that would otherwise be lost, and heats a million homes in Beijing, including the U.S. embassy. So, we are delighted about that. And it produces only half the emissions of an ordinary coal plant.

This is the kind of thing that we need to do more of. It is creative, it is effective, and it is profitable. And in an age where we are producing, through the use of coal and oil, greenhouse gases that are endangering us all, this is exactly what we need to do.

Climate change is an epic challenge. Scientists have been warning us about this threat for many years. And mounting evidence suggests that, if anything, scientists have underestimated the seriousness of the threat, not the other way around. In our view, nothing is more important for dealing with this threat than a U.S.-China partnership turning their full attention to it. Together, we produce about 40 percent of worldwide emissions, but together we can do great things.

Now, the United States recognizes its responsibility, as the world's largest historic emitter of greenhouse gases, to be a leader in this fight. And we also recognize that China has enormous challenges, in terms of development, development needs and development pressures.

And yet, this is true. There is no way to preserve a safe and livable planet unless China plays a very important role, along with the United States. This is not a matter of politics or morality or right or wrong. It is simply the unforgiving math of accumulated emissions.

But if climate change amounts to a daunting challenge, it also presents enormous opportunity. The only way to address climate change, fundamentally, is to transform the global economy from a high to a low-carbon base, and that presents great economic opportunity. In our view, building a clean energy economy is not only something we can do consistent with economic growth, it is exactly what we need to do right now to build an economy that can compete, not only today, but tomorrow.

And let me say don't believe people who tell you that we can't do this now, that we have to go slow, that we need to wait until this economic crisis is over. The economic crisis is all the more reason why we need to act now. And in the United States, President Obama, in his stimulus plan that was just signed into law, included a major down-payment for clean energy to drive this movement forward in the United States.

China has already taken many important steps. You released an impressive white paper last October. It went through many of the steps that China is taking already. But more needs to be done, and the United States and China can do more together. We can learn from each other. We can engage in joint research and development. We can collaborate on projects involving renewable energy, efficiency in buildings, and the capture and storage of CO2 from coal plants. We can mobilize large-scale investment, and share technology, and we can discover the new technologies that will build a safer and more sustainable future.

I have worked for two Presidents, one also named Clinton, by the way, who liked to say about hard things, "We can do this." And our new President, President Obama, likes to say about hard things, "Yes, we can." If China and the United States make common cause on building a low carbon world and put our collective talent, know-how, and inspiration to the task, we will get this job done.

Thank you very much. And I would like to now introduce the principal speaker at this little session, somebody who it's been a great privilege and honor for me to travel with on my first trip, the Secretary of State, who, along with President Obama, is bringing a broader, more collaborative approach to American foreign policy generally, as well as an intensive new commitment to the issues of clean energy and global climate change. Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary of State of the United States Hillary Clinton. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am delighted be here this afternoon. This is an extraordinary opportunity to see in action what I discussed this morning in my meeting with Foreign Minister Yang, and then with State Councilor Dai. And when I leave here, I will be meeting with other officials of the Chinese government, and I am particularly pleased that I have a chance to see some of the young people who are going to be making the difference in the future.

I want to thank Mr. Norbom and Mr. Wen. I want to thank Mr. Qiu Ming and Mr. Wang Yongliang and (inaudible) for having us here, and for what you're doing here. That is more important than our visit, by many, many degrees. This represents such a wonderful collaboration. And, as Todd Stern, our Obama administration climate change envoy said, we need to figure out ways to do more and more of this.

In our discussions this morning with Foreign Minister Yang, we agreed in principle to a strategic and economic dialogue between our countries, which will be finalized when our two presidents meet together in London around the G-20 summit. And among the most important issues that we will discuss together is clean energy and climate change, and what the United States and China can do together. And there will be a big role for universities, and faculties, and researchers, and scientists, and technicians, and business people, and government officials, all together.

When, 30 years ago this year, the United States and China established diplomatic relations. We weren't thinking at that time about climate change. There were other pressing global issues that we began to listen to one another, and talk together, and try to understand.

But today, we know that climate change and clean energy are two of the biggest challenges our countries and the world face. This cooperative clean energy venture here, at this power plant, acknowledges an inescapable fact, that the interdependent world in which we live requires us to find new ways to collaborate and cooperate in the face of unprecedented global challenges and untapped global opportunities.

Now, addressing climate change and promoting clean energy is not only a global environmental issue. It is a health issue. It is an economic issue. It is a security issue. And we have to look at it all together in that comprehensive way. And I know that the partnership we see here today can bear so much fruit.

General Electric has provided high-tech equipment to produce heat and power with half the emissions, and far less water usage than the coal plants that we typically rely on. And Chinese businesses build the steam turbines that help to power the plant. So it is a true collaboration.

There are a number of partnerships currently underway between our countries, and it's not only at the national level, but business-to-business, business-to-municipality, and even this one, which is particularly impressive: California has partnered with the province of Jiangsu, where Chinese officials have found that, by replacing aging motors in factories and adopting more efficient responses, they can eliminate the need for more than two dozen coal-fired plants with no added cost.

In addition to the cooperative efforts that are linking states and provinces, cities in China and the United States are finding the economic and environmental benefits very attractive when they collaborate on clean energy.

So, what we're seeing here is the kind of in-depth partnership that we want to encourage. I decided to come to Asia on my first trip as Secretary of State, because I think that the opportunities for us to work together are unmatched, anywhere in the world. We take very seriously in the Obama administration, the issue of climate change. And we are going to be taking strong action to lower carbon emissions dramatically, and develop alternative sources of energy. The stimulus package of $790 billion that President Obama just signed includes extensive new investments in clean energy.

And similarly, here in China, your government is recognizing the importance of developing smarter and more sustainable policies for growth.

Now, historically, as you know, the United States had the largest carbon footprint. But in the last year, China has surpassed us, and that is because of your growth. And I laugh with some of your officials. The United States, and certainly the Obama administration, we want China to grow. We want the Chinese people to have a very good standard of living. What we hope is that you won't make the same mistakes we made, because I don't think either China or the world can afford that.

We were industrializing and growing. We didn't know any better. Neither did Europe. Now we are smart enough to figure out how to have the right kind of growth, sustainable growth, and clean energy-driven growth. This plant can be a model that can be adapted and replicated throughout our economies. And I think it is especially fitting that, as part of this new strategic and economic dialogue that we have agreed to in principle, clean energy and climate change will be at the center. Here we have seen, at this clean thermal plant, evidence of what we can do.

Our new energy secretary, Secretary Steven Chu, a famous scientist in the United States, is devoted to putting his extraordinary intelligence to work on behalf of clean energy. And I talked with him before I came on this trip, and he said he wanted to explore ways between universities in the United States and universities in China, where we can jointly develop intellectual property, where we can jointly come up with new technologies. That is the level of partnership we want, where we can each benefit from the fruit of our labor and our intellectual investment.

So, we have come a long way in the last 30 years, since we formalized relations. We will have many issues to discuss between our two countries. We will not always agree. No two people always agree. Two great countries like ours will not always agree. But we do believe that we can agree and work together on what is one of the most important issues that has ever, ever faced humanity. And I look out and see these bright young people, and I know that your future depends upon the decisions that we will make now.

I heard a Chinese proverb recently that says, "Dig the well before you are thirsty." I love Chinese proverbs. (Laughter.)

The 21st century is testing us to determine whether we are smart enough to follow that advice. I think we are. And I know that we are going to do everything we can in the Obama administration to pass out a lot of shovels so we can dig a lot of wells so we can take care of all the thirst that is out there for a new future, a future of tremendous opportunity.

You know, in every generation, people are called upon to make difficult decisions. I remember very well in the late 1970s my husband was the governor of a small state, Arkansas. And President Carter invited us to meet Deng Xiaoping when he came to the United States. And I remember meeting that great leader, who began the 30-year march that China has demonstrated is able to create a thriving, dynamic, economic, and social miracle.

And so, now we have to take the next 30 years, and make our mark. And this is the area where I am most optimistic. So I will leave China tomorrow, encouraged by the possibilities of what a stronger relationship can mean for the Chinese and American people, for our economies, for our security, for our health, for our education, for our energy profile, but most importantly for your futures.

That, to me, is what politics is supposed to be about. Are people better off when you end than when you started? Are people's lives more possible, filled with potential, or not? And I think we have such a tremendous opportunity ahead of us, and I look forward to playing a small role on behalf of my nation, with all of you here in China.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)


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Friday, February 20, 2009

Changing Climate Change: Grant Proposals Open

Green Mountain Coffee will provide four grants for $200,000 each (payable over 5 years) to support the work of reducing climate change. To participate in this contest, you need to submit your idea on JustMeans and fill out the full grant proposal from Green Mountain Coffee.

Learn more and get started now!

Contest Details:

Climate change is not a problem that can be solved by a single entity - be it government, business, civil society, or individuals. We believe that long term solutions will come from the combined efforts of all of the above. While government will play an important role, we need not wait for government direction to take steps to understand, reduce, and mitigate our share of GHG emissions.

One grant will be made in each of the four categories of: Threats to Coffee-Growing Communities, Transportation-Related Emissions, Building Political Will, and Empowering Individual Action. Submissions close March 21st.

Key Dates:

  • February 16th: Call for idea submissions and full proposals.
  • February 16th – March 21st: Public comments on ideas.
  • March 21st: Deadlines to submit grant applications - 12:00 AM EST
  • March 28th: Finalists announced and reposted on
  • March 28th – April 3rd: Public comments on ideas.
  • April 3rd: The public challenge ends and the final judging begins.
  • April 22nd: Winners announced on Earth Day

Next Steps:

The Changing Climate Change contest requires submitters to post ideas to JustMeans as well as submit a complete grant proposal.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

EPA to Regulate CO2, or How Coal Plants Die

By Susanna Murley, originally posted at CCAN

In the death throes of the Bush administration, then-EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson put the agency on record stating that CO2 is not a pollutant that should be regulated by the Clean Air Act. This week, the current EPA administrator Lisa Jackson announced her intent to overturn that memorandum, putting the EPA on the path toward regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

As a result of this decision, coal plants are dropping like flies. The latest victim comes out of Oklahoma. Opposition groups cite the EPA decision and public outcry, but the reps from the company building the plant say it’s “purely a business decision.” With more and more planned coal plants biting the dust due to “business decisions,” how much longer can coal companies insist that building new coal plants our best option?

But this hilarious video from 2006 reminds us that the fossil fuel industry isn’t confined to the truth when defending its turf. (No, it’s not a spoof. It’s real.)

Virginia is in the midst of a heated battle against two proposed coal plants. Given that the EPA now seems to be interested in actually protecting the environment, and coal plant proposals across the country are being withdrawn, it’s hard not to wonder: Is Virginia next?

One thing is for certain: regulations are coming. With this most recent EPA decision, the skyrocketing price of coal, and mounting concerns over global warming and mountaintop removal, there is ample reason for the courts to send the Wise County Plant back to the state regulatory agencies for review. Surely the recently proposed $6 billion Surry plant will have to be reconsidered given the new regulations.

With these new regulations from the EPA, utilities like Dominion (which proposed the Wise County plant) and Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (which proposed the Surry plant) will not only have to clean up emissions of sulfur, mercury and nitrogen, but will also have to limit emissions of carbon dioxide. There is, of course, no way to significantly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from coal plants – the much anticipated capture-and storage technology everyone keeps talking about is decades and billions of dollars away from being a reality. It makes you wonder: How will ODEC and Dominion make their coal plants “clean” when you can’t “clean” the CO2 out of dirty coal? With a lot of money, a giant PR campaign and a little magic dust sprinkled on for good measure.

As the truth about coal begins to dawn on Virginia, it’s up to us to say enough with dirty expensive coal. In the face of such economic uncertainty it seems like an unsound investment for Virginia to be gambling our future. Now is the time to work towards securing a clean and efficient energy for the Commonwealth and the nation.

[Following in the spirit of the hilarious real-life ad from CEI... do you know the game two truths and a lie? Well here's three coal ads. Two are real life. One is fake. Can you tell which one? Post your guess in the comments.]

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Economic Stimulus, Clean Energy and the Scale of Our Challenge: Grading the Stimulus Energy Investments

By Professor Gregory Bothun and Jesse Jenkins

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama signed into law the $787 billion economic stimulus package. The stimulus directs more than $80 billion to start the construction of a new, national clean energy infrastructure. Many are hailing this clean energy investment as unprecedented, which in the context of the last thirty years of neglected energy priorities is undoubtedly true. But with all those billions thrown about, it's hard to get a grasp on the scale of this investment. What does $80 billion really mean in the context of the 21st century United States energy system? Is this a significant investment or merely the first step on the long road to a green economy? In order to answer those questions, we’d better brush up on our energy literacy and get familiar with the scale of our energy system.

Welcome to Energy Literacy 101.

We start with a bit of historical context, noting that the energy infrastructure projects initiated in the 1930's under FDR culminated with 45% of the nation's electricity coming from renewable energy (hydropower) and employed approximately 100,000 workers over the decade or so it took to build that infrastructure.

With that bit of history in the back of our minds, we now turn to four big numbers: 100 million; 1 trillion; 400 million; and 1 billion.

  • 100 million. That’s about how many households there are in the United States, each consuming an average of over one thousand watts (one kilowatt) of electricity to run our plasma TVs, charge our iPods, and keep our fridge humming away. Put another way, the total energy-related spending in this stimulus bill amounts to just about $800 per household.

  • 1 trillion watts, or 1 terawatt (TW), is total maximum electrical output of the more than 17,000 power plants operating in the United States. About half of that, or roughly 450 billion watts (450 gigawatts) of electrical power is continuously produced by these power plants. That’s roughly 1.5 thousand watts (1.5 kilowatts) of electrical power for every person in the country, enough to constantly power fifteen standard light bulbs for every man, women and child. However, plenty of the electricity we generate is lost as we transport and distribute electricity across our aging electrical transmission infrastructure, much of which was built more than fifty years ago. In fact, our inefficient and antiquated electrical grid wastes 60 million kilowatts of power, equivalent to the output of thirty giant dams the size of the Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam. That’s enough wasted electricity to meet the combined electrical needs of California, Oregon, and Washington state combined.

  • 400 million gallons of gasoline are consumed daily in the United States. Daily! That’s more than a gallon for every man, women and child in the United States.

  • And here’s where we get to 1 billion: at $2.50 per gallon, that also means Americans are spending $1 billion dollars every single day on gasoline. No other retail product comes anywhere near this daily exchange rate of 1 billion dollars a day. A billion dollars, burnt up in gas tanks across America every day. $80 billion is therefore only enough to buy less than a three month’s supply of gasoline for American consumers. Let that sink in for a second, as we turn back to consider what $80 billion in clean energy investments can do for our country.
In a nation that burns up a billion dollars every day in gas tanks and continually produces one trillion watts of electrical power, its easy to see that the $80 billion, two-year investment in the stimulus package is only a first step. A critical first step, no doubt, but a relatively small step all the same. A significantly larger and sustained effort is required to transition the nation’s massive energy system to a new, clean energy economy – a fact President Obama and the American public cannot afford to forget.

With this sense of scale as our backdrop, we can now turn our eye to some of the individual components of the $80-plus-billion in energy sector stimulus investments and assign grades to each investment, as after all, this is a class in energy literacy.

We begin with the good grades:

A+: The act provides a much-needed, long-term extension of the critical Production Tax Credit that has spurred the booming wind industry, and makes tax credits for wind, solar and other renewable energy sources fully refundable for the next two years. In the past, these incentives have been implemented one year at a time, and allowed to lapse for up to a year or more at the end of each period, throwing these industries into crippling boom-bust cycles. Extending the PTC through the end of 2012 and credits for other renewables even longer is a smart move that provides longer-term certainty for businesses to plan their investments. Making these credits fully refundable during the economic crisis is also critical. Clean energy projects typically rely on banks and other financial institutions to absorb their tax credits in exchange for a payment, since the clean energy companies receive far more tax credits than they can absorb in their own profits. Now days, with banks everywhere in the red, financial institutions have stopped snapping up these tax credits, drying up funding for clean energy projects and rendering the tax credits almost useless. Finally, the bill also includes $6 billion to support loan guarantees expected to cover more than $60 billion in private loans to clean energy projects and helping thaw out frozen credit markets for these capital-intensive projects. With this kind of critical support in place, we can expect wind, solar and other renewable energy sources to experience robust growth over the next two years, bringing much-needed jobs and new supplies of clean, domestic energy.

A: Approximately $5B has been set aside for energy-efficiency retrofits for low-income housing, enough to significantly augment the existing Federal Weatherization Assistance Program for efficiency in low-income households. Saving poor households money during a recession while cutting back our national energy consumption is equitable and wise, and this investment is sufficiently large to retrofit a sizable one million low-income homes each year for the next two years. Still, with 20-30 million households in America eligible for weatherization assistance, this is just the beginning of this smart investment. If this level of support can be sustained for a decade, we’ll have a truly scalable solution on our hands, and we will upgrade this project to A+ status.

A: Approximately $11B has been set aside to improve the energy efficiency of federal buildings and to provide local governments with block grants for efficiency retrofits. Relatively simple upgrades like changing out lighting, installing proper insulation and windows, and putting in programmable thermostats, can generally achieve an energy savings of 20-30 percent per building. Even at a retrofit cost of $100,000 per building (high in many cases) these funds would produce 110,000 more energy efficient government buildings. If the money is spent wisely, we estimate that approximately 250,000 buildings could reduce their energy footprint by about 20 percent – saving energy and taxpayer money. Of course we have millions of government buildings that need such energy retrofits so commitment to this course must be sustained beyond the next two years.

A-: Another $4.5B is dedicated to modernizing the electrical grid with up to $11B more devoted to implementing “Smart Grid” demonstrations throughout the US (like the one already initiated in Boulder, CO). Upgrading and expanding our transmission system and installing new, Smart Grid technologies, including “smart appliances” in homes and business, would increase the efficiency of the grid and enable grid operators to make smart, real-time decisions about how to generate, store and consume electricity – an essential step if we are to a) modernize our failing electrical grid and b) incorporate the widespread generation of renewable energy into the grid (wind, solar, wave, and more). After many decades of neglect, this $15.5B is the first serious public investment in our electrical grid in recent memory. Of course, the effort to upgrade and modernize our national electrical system will take many years, and the cost of building a nation-wide smart grid may well cost hundreds of billions when all is said and done. (Are you detecting a pattern here?)

Unfortunately, we have now handed out all the A grades that we can, and the remaining investments begin to fall progressively shorter of the A mark.

B: $2B for the Advanced Battery Manufacturing grant program to support the manufacture of advanced vehicles for hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. Currently, batteries store less than 1/60th as much energy as an equivalent amount of gasoline by mass and 1/30th by volume. While electric vehicles are more energy efficient than their internal combustion engine cousins, cramming enough batteries onto an electric vehicle to provide the 200 miles of range Americans expect (gotta be able to drive to the nearest factory outlet store and back after all) is still a major technical challenge. No wonder Obama’s new Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently called for “a battery that's ten times better and cheaper than what we've got today.” The widespread electrification of transportation could truly end our oil addiction once and for all by letting Americans plug our cars and trucks into a diverse portfolio of clean, domestic electricity sources. Switching to electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids would also dramatically lower our greenhouse gas emissions. Electrifying transportation is a lofty but critical objective, perhaps our highest collective energy and climate policy priority. It’s worth – and will require – far more than $2 billion.

B-: About $8.5B has been committed for further R&D in both renewable energy and fossil energy (predominantly carbon capture and storage techniques for coal and gas plants). While this is a substantial increase from today’s anemic federal energy R&D budget, energy innovation will take a sustained investment over the coming decades, and this is merely a critical first step. Federal investments in energy R&D should ultimately increase to the scale of the National Institutes of Health, which receive nearly $30 billion annually. Curing our oil addiction and stopping the climate crisis is surely worth as much as curing cancer and other disease. Furthermore, the bulk of these new funds are directed to the Department of Energy. On the surface this sounds sensible, but alas, the DOE is not really in the clean energy innovation business. Indeed only 17% of DOE's budget focuses on energy, with the bulk of DOE’s funding (and operational competence) focused on managing (and cleaning up after) our nation’s sprawling and antiquated nuclear weapons production system, as well as supporting high energy physics research. That’s why many are questioning whether DOE is really equipped, as currently structured, to drive energy sector transformation on the massive scale we need. That’s one of the main reasons the Brookings Institution has proposed creating a network of new Energy Discovery-Innovation Institutes, regionally-focused, university-based research consortia that would bring together the best thinkers from across disciplines and from wherever they are in the academic, public or private sectors to tackle translational energy research and improve and expand our portfolio of clean energy technologies and fuels. In summary: when it comes to energy innovation, we don’t just need to spend more money, we also need to spend our money differently, and that's a challenge that Obama and the Congress have yet to take up.

C+: About $16B has been set aside for new mass transit systems, with about half going to intercity rail lines, including new high speed rail lines, and half going to urban areas for better public transit systems. Expanding access to efficient and reliable mass transit will give people more transportation freedom and cut both oil consumption and global warming pollution, making it a critical investment. And the United States is getting way behind in the high-speed rail arena compared to nations like China, Japan and the EU. So it’s about time we put some money on the table to build modern high-speed rail lines linking our major cities and providing comfortable, convenient alternatives to air travel for medium-distance trips. However, keep in mind again the scale of our transportation system and our oil addiction ($1 billion a day on gasoline alone, remember?). The ultimate price tag for the construction of new large-scale mass transit systems is enormous. For perspective, simply extending the existing DC metro system to Dulles Airport (and its about damn time) is projected to cost around $2.5B-$3B… for just 11 new miles of track!

All right, we’re now out of the middling but passable grades and right on to the outright failures. And yes, there’s a couple.

F: Just $0.3B for the Energy Star appliance rebate program. That's a nice gesture, but remember those 100 million households referred to above? This amounts to $3.00 per household, unlikely to do much to move the needle of national energy consumption, and a failing grade in our book.

F: Another $0.3B has been allocated for the purchase of more alternative-fuel and hybrid vehicles for the federal fleet (including plug-in hybrids if they are available soon). This is symbolic only, enough to convert just ten percent of the federal fleet (less if more expensive plug-in hybrids are purchased). Why not allocate $3B (remember you’ve got hundreds of billions being doled out here) and completely convert the federal fleet to efficient, advance vehicles? Ten percent is less than half-ass, and in the academic world, less than half-ass gets a failing grade.

OK class, you’re almost dismissed, but first your must endure some concluding remarks (in typical Academic Windbag style):

We applaud President Obama for prioritizing clean energy investments in the stimulus and Congress for having the good sense to begin laying the foundation for a new energy economy. The bill focuses on all the right areas – clean energy innovation and deployment, a more efficient built environment, a smarter, more robust electrical grid, the electrification of transportation, and new mass transit options.

But the scale of our energy transition is simply enormous, and the $80 billion invested in clean energy by the stimulus takes us only the first steps towards an ultimate goal of energy independence and a zero carbon energy system. Luckily though, history teaches us that incremental progress, when sustained, can produce great achievements; but only if we respond, with sustained dedication and commitment to our energy challenges.

The American response to the launch of Sputnik began with innocuous baby steps. Yet soon, the United States had dedicated itself to the Space Race in full, and in a mere 12 years after the shock of Sputnik, American astronauts were walking on the moon. Today, we can again embark on the large-scale programs and muster the sustained commitment needed to reach our energy goals. While the American ideals of commitment, dedication and leadership have taken a long hiatus from the political stage over the past decades, they are not yet extinct. We can once again summon these ideals, rise to this challenge, and build a new, clean energy economy. Yes we can - not in 2 years, probably not in 10 years, but this journey must begin now. In that respect, $80 billion is a solid first step.

Dr. Gregory Bothun is a professor at the Department of Physics at the University of Oregon, where he teaches several courses on energy and climate change, dispensing grades on fearful undergrads. Jesse Jenkins is the Director of Energy and Climate Policy at the Breakthrough Institute and is a survivor of Professor Bothun’s grading and former teaching assistant in his energy and climate courses.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

BREAKING: Obama Pledges to Regulate CO2 from Coal Plants

By Jesse Jenkins

President Barack Obama's Environmental Protection Agency pledged to regulate global warming pollution from coal-fired power plants today, granting a petition filed by the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations. The decision casts an almost palpable shadow of doubt over the fate of roughly 100 proposed coal plants awaiting permits throughout the United States and should offer a brief respite in the ongoing fight against continued reliance on the dirty fossil fuel.

Under the leadership of new EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the Agency overturned an unlawful "midnight memo" filed by outgoing Bush EPA admin Stephen Johnson in December that amounted to a last ditch effort to saddle President Obama with the Bush Administration's do-nothing policy on global warming. Today's announcement makes it clear that Obama's EPA will stand by the rule of law and uphold the so-called Bonanza ruling made by the EPA Environmental Appeals Board in November, which concluded that EPA had no grounds to not require "best available control technology" for new coal plants.

"Not only does today's decision signal a good start for our clean energy future, it also signals a return to policy based on sound science and the rule of law, not deep pocketbooks or politics," says David Bookbinder, the lead climate lawyer for the Sierra Club. "With coal-fired power plants emitting more than 30 percent of our global warming pollution, regulating their carbon dioxide is essential to making real progress in the fight against global warming."

As I reported in November, the Bonanza ruling that today's decision upholds concluded that EPA has not justified it's decision to not require the use of "best available control technologies" (or BACT in Clean Air Act legalese) to reduce the global warming pollution spewed from coal-fired power plants.

The BACT provision of the Clean Air Act requires that new power plants must employ the most effective, readily available pollution control technologies for regulated pollutants in order to receive air quality permits required for development, ensuring that new power plants are progressively cleaner as new technologies become readily available. Until the Bonanza ruling, BACT has only applied to NOx, acid rain-forming SO2, particulate matter, mercury and other noxious pollutants, but not carbon dioxide, which spewed freely from permitted power plants.

What BACT means for CO2 is therefore undefined, and the process of defining it will take time - time during which the air permits for new coal-fired power plants can easily be challenged in court, if not held up entirely by permitting agencies. Today's announcement sets of the process of determining what to do about the currently uncontrolled emissions of greenhouse gases from coal plants.

There are several options that seem available to President Obama and his EPA (Editor's Note: I am not a lawyer, so take this with a grain of salt, and head over to Warming Law Blog for forthcoming detailed legal analysis):

  1. EPA could move forward to define BACT for CO2. In this case, the definition of BACT is unlikely to require the use of carbon capture and storage (yet), since the technology is not yet readily available. In this case, BACT, for now, will probably mean some combination of co-generation (making use of waste heat from electricity generation), efficiency improvements, and/or fuel switching/co-firing with biomass.

  2. Obama and the EPA could issue a broader endangerment finding for CO2 from coal plants, which would state that CO2 poses a risk to public and environmental health and warrants action under another provision of the Clean Air Act that allows EPA to establish sector-specific emissions performance standards for pollutants. Under such a provision, EPA could require any new coal plants or existing plants undergoing major retrofits to control their emissions to a certain emissions rate - say no more than the emissions of a modern combined cycle natural gas plant. This kind of emissions performance standard, already the law in California and Washington state, would require coal plants to cut their emissions by 50-60% of more. Obama's EPA recently granted California and 13 other states their petition to establish regulations on CO2 emissions from the tailpipes of cars and trucks under this kind of provision, and it would seem to be consistent with the Massachussets v. EPA Supreme Court ruling which paved the way for this kind of regulation. Such a ruling would essentially take the coal industry's promises at their word when they say "clean coal" technologies are on their way and ban all new coal plants that are not fitted with carbon capture and storage technology.
Regardless of what rules are ultimately established, this announcement signals the end of the days when CO2 is treated as a harmless byproduct of fossil fuel combustion. It also casts continued doubt on the prospects of any proposed coal-fired power plants that are unable to control their emissions, making new coal plants an even poorer investment decision.

"New coal plants were already a bad bet for investors and ratepayers," says the Sierra Club's Bookbinder. "Today's decisions make them an even bigger gamble."

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Detailed Summary of Energy Investments in Stimulus

The American Recovery and Investment Act agreed upon by the Senate and House Conference Committee contains over $61.9 billion in energy-related public spending as well as tax credits and bond provisions expected to cost $20 billion over ten years.

The House of Representatives approved the conference report of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act today, by a vote of 246-186. Not a single Republican joined Democrats in approving this version of the bill, which was the product of long negotiations between leadership in both the House and Senate, as well as a block of centrist Senate Democrats and Republicans who have taken control of much of the debate on the stimulus.

The public investment numbers in the stimulus have bounced around during the countless negotiations, so if you've been following this crazy game at home (all twelve of you), here's my detailed summary, provided without further comment, of the energy-related investments and tax provisions in the conference version of the stimulus.

Assuming the block of centrist Senators remains supportive, this will be the version passed into law by the Senate soon, as early as later this evening. Keep in mind that all spending will be spread out over roughly two years.

Public Spending, Investment and Loan Guarantees - Total: $61.9 billion
Source: Conference Report "Joint Explanatory Statement - Division A" at House Rules Committee

Research, Development and Demonstration - Subtotal: $8.2 billion

  • $2.5 billion for applied research and development activities relating to renewable energy and energy efficiency. It looks like this is to be directed to programs administered by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), including $800 million directed to biomass project, $400 million for geothermal projects, and $50 million to improve the efficiency of information and communications technology.
  • $2.0 billion for energy R&D programs at the Department of Energy Office of Science, including the National Laboratories.
    • Includes $400 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-e) as authorized by the America COMPETES Act. This is the first time moneys have been appropriated to fund ARPA-e.
  • $3.4 billion for the Fossil Energy Research and Development Program, including $1 billion for fossil energy R&D programs, $800 million for the Clean Coal Power Initiative, $1.52 billion for carbon capture and generation efficiency improvement project grants, and $70 million for geologic carbon sequestration R&D.
  • $300 million for renewable energy and energy efficiency research, development, testing and evaluation for the Department of Defense (including $75 million each for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Defense-wide programs).

Clean Energy Deployment - Subtotal: $6 billion
  • $6 billion in loan guarantees for the Innovation Technology Loan Guarantee Program established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. These loan guarantees are expected to support more than $60 billion in loans for renewable energy technologies and modern transmission technologies.

Energy Efficiency Deployment - Subtotal: $16.9 (plus additional funds for DOD upgrades)
  • $4.5 billion for General Services Administration program to build and upgrade federal buildings to be "high performance green buildings."
  • $3.2 billion for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program.
  • $5 billion for Weatherization Assistance Program. Another provision expands the eligibility of low-income households for weatherization assistance and increases the maximum funding assistance level per household.
  • $3.1 billion for the State Energy Program
  • $300 million for the Energy Efficiency Appliance Rebate program and the Energy Star Program to encourage consumer purchases of energy efficient appliances.
  • $510 million to rehabilitate and improve the efficiency of housing unites maintained by Native American housing programs.
  • $250 million to increase the energy efficiency of low-income housing supported by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
  • A portion of a $4.24 billion fund for repair and upgrades at Department of Defense facilities is directed to be used to invest in energy efficiency projects. According to this summary at Grist, the funds for efficiency totals $420 million, but I don't see that in the Conference Summary Report.

Electrifying Transportation, Alternative Fuels and Efficient Vehicles - Subtotal: $3 billion
  • $2 billion for the Advanced Battery Manufacturing grant program to support the manufacture of advanced vehicles for hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.
  • $400 million for transportation electrification activities.
  • $300 million for the Alternative Fueled Vehicles Pilot Grant Program (I believe this is to facilitate the use of alternative fueled vehicles by government and perhaps private fleets).
  • $300 million is provided for the acquisition of vehicles for the federal fleet. Vehicles must be at least 10 percent more fuel efficient than the vehicles replaced and funds may be used to purchase plug-in hybrid vehicles if they are commercially available before September 30, 2010.

Modernizing the Electrical Grid - Subtotal: $11 billion (and perhaps additional smart grid funding, see below)
  • $4.5 billion for the DOE Office of Electricity Delivery and Reliability for activities related to modernizing the electrical grid. Includes $100 million directed to workforce training efforts. Funds may be used for transmission improvements authorized by any subsequent act of Congress.
  • A provision (Title XIII) of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 is amended to provide unspecified amount of financial support to smart grid demonstration projects. This summary (pdf) indicates that the available funding totals $11 billion for smart-grid related activities, but I was unable to find a figure in the conference report. CAP seems to corroborate this figure in their stimulus summary here.
  • The borrowing authority of the Bonneville Power Administration and the Western Area Power Authority are each increased by $3.25 billion, which may also help with modernization or expansion of the electricity transmission system operated by BPA in the Pacific Northwest region.
  • See also $6 billion loan guarantee program under "Clean Energy Deployment" above, for which transmission technologies are eligible.

Public Transit and Rail - Subtotal: $16.2 billion
  • $8 billion for construction of high speed passenger rail and intercity passenger rail service.
  • $1.3 billion for Amtrak (the National Railroad Passenger Corporation) rail investments.
  • $6.9 billion for public transit construction, maintenence and upgrades.

New Energy Economy
Workforce Development - Subtotal: $0.6 billion (plus additional Job Corps money, see below)
  • $500 million to fund workforce development activities to prepare workers for careers in renewable energy and energy efficiency as described in the Green Jobs Act of 2007.
  • An unspecified portion of the $250 million in funding for the Office of Job Corps programs serving at-risk youth will also be directed to provide additional training in careers in the energy efficiency, renewable energy and environmental protection industries.
  • See also the $100 million in workforce training for the electricity transmission industry in "Modernizing the Grid Above"

Tax Incentives, Credits and Bonds - Expected total cost of provisions is $20 billion over ten years
Source: Conference Report "Joint Explanatory Statement - Division B" at House Rules Committee

Clean Energy Deployment - Expected cost of provisions totals $14.9 billion over ten years.
  • Three year extension of Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (through December 31, 2012). Expected cost is $13.143 billion over 10 years.
  • For facilities placed in service in 2009 or 2010, renewable energy facilities qualified for the Production Tax Credit may claim the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit instead. This allows wind power generators to temporarily claim the up-front ITC instead of the PTC (which pays out over ten years) in order to help them secure financing for projects during the credit freeze. Expected cost is $285 million over 10 years.
  • Allows full Investment Tax Credit for facilities financed with federally subsidized financing (previously the ITC was limited in this case) and allows full 30% credit for small wind generators (previously capped at $500 per kilowatt). Expected cost is $872 million over 10 years.
  • Temporarily allows renewable energy projects to claim a grant in lieu of the Production Tax Credit or Investment Tax Credit at a value of 30% of the project cost (mimicing the ITC). Qualifying projects that begin construction in 2009 or 2010 are eligible. This essentially makes the PTC and ITC fully refundable for qualifying renewable energy facilities, which typically rely on financial institutions to claim the value of the tax credit. With financial institutions not profitable at this time, they do not have sufficient tax liability to continue offering this service to renewable energy facilities. This provision ensures that the full value of the incentives can be secured by renewable energy projects even during the financial crisis.
  • Authorizes $1.6 billion for Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs Bonds) to help finance the construction of new renewable energy facilities owned/operated by non-profit entities, including public power providers, state/municipal/tribal governments, and electric cooperatives. These non-profit entities cannot claim the Production Tax Credit or Investment Tax Credits. Expected to cost $578 million over 10 years.

Energy Efficiency Deployment - Expected cost of provisions totals $2.8 billion over ten years
  • Authorizes $2.4 billion for Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds to finance state/municipal/tribal government programs to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The bonds may also be used for programs in which utilities provide ratepayers with energy-efficient property and recoub the expense over time in rates. Expected to cost $803 million over 10 years.
  • Tax credits for energy efficient home improvements are extended through 2010 and increased from 10% to 30% of qualified expenses paid for efficiency upgrades. Expected cost is $2.034 billion over 10 years.

Electrifying Transportation, Alternative Fuels and Efficient Vehicles - Expected cost of provisions totals $2.1 billion over ten years
  • Business and individual tax credits for alternative fuel pumps and refueling infrastructure is temporarily increased from 30% to 50% of qualifying costs for 2009 and 2010, with the exception of hydrogen fueling pumps, which remain capped at 30%. Expected cost is $54 million over 10 years.
  • Increases tax credit for purchase of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, allowing larger credits for vehicles with larger batteries. The base amount of the credit is $2,500. If the qualified vehicle draws propulsion from a battery with at least 5 kilowatt hours of capacity, the credit is increased by $417, plus another $417 for each kilowatt hour of battery capacity in excess of 5 kilowatt hours up to 16 kilowatt hours. Expected cost is $2.002 billion over ten years.

Public Transit and Rail - Expected cost of provisions totals $0.2 billion over ten years
  • Parity is provided between the employer tax credit for fringe benefits for transit and parking offered to employees. Previously the credit for transit benefits was lower than for parking benefits. The bill sets maximum credit for fringe parking and transit benefits at $230 per month. Expected cost is $192 million over ten years.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Energy Secretary Steven Chu: "Revolution" In Energy Technology Needed in Fight Against Climate Change

Chu says "second industrial revolution" needed in energy technology. Calls for Nobel-level "breakthroughs" in biomass, batteries and solar power to offer "better choices" in fight to overcome energy and climate challenges.

In a candid conversation with reporters yesterday, newly-confirmed Energy Secretary Dr. Stephen Chu called for "a second industrial revolution" in energy technology to overcome the world's energy and climate challenges.

Sounding rather familiar, Dr. Chu said solving these pressing challenges would require Nobel-level "breakthroughs" in at least three core energy technologies: advanced batteries for vehicles, new crops for biomass energy, and solar panels cheap enough to deploy without subsidy.

A Nobel Laureate himself and the former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Chu is a forceful advocate of energy innovation and isn't afraid to publicly challenge the myth that "we have all the technologies we need to solve the energy challenge." On the contrary, the new Energy Secretary knows better than just about anyone the scale of the global energy and climate challenge and the critical role technology innovation must play if we are serious about overcoming that challenge.

In this latest conversation (audio available at the NY Times), Secretary Chu spoke eloquently about the critical role of science, technology and innovation in the fight against climate change, energy dependence and global poverty. "I think science and technology can generate much better choices" in this critical effort, the new Energy Secretary said. "It has, consistently, over hundreds and hundreds of years."

"We effectively need a second industrial revolution that gives us the energy we need, allows us to use it as efficiently as possible," and does not damage the climate, Chu said.

Settling into his new political role, Secretary Chu clearly recognizes the political challenges facing an effort to increase carbon prices to induce technological change - as well as the role that technology innovation to make clean energy cheaper can play in overcoming these challenges. According to the New York Times:

Dr. Chu said reaching agreement on legislation to combat climate change would be difficult in the current recession because any scheme to regulate greenhouse gas emissions would probably cause energy prices to rise and drive manufacturing jobs to countries where energy is cheaper.

"The concern about cap-and-trade in today's economic climate," Dr. Chu said, "is that a lot of money might flow to developing countries in a way that might not be completely politically sellable."

While Chu added that he still supports putting a price on carbon, he clearly sees an effort to make clean energy cheaper as critical to overcoming the political and technical challenges to tackling climate change.

Some climate advocates have steadfastly maintained that no technological breakthroughs are needed in core technologies like solar photovoltaics, but here Secretary Chu says:

"There should be a new generation of photovoltaics. The photovoltaics we have today, if you say without subsidy, and without even the additional cost of storage, it's about a factor of five higher than electricity generation by gas or coal. Suppose someone comes along and invents a way of getting ... solar photovoltaics at one fifth the cost, so you don't even think about subsidies anymore. You just slap it everywhere... That, in my opinion, would take something, which I would say, is a bit of a breakthrough."

Obama's much lauded new Energy Secretary also called for "a battery that's ten times better and cheaper than what we've got" and argued that a new "green revolution" was possible in the design of perennial crops that could provide a feedstock for affordable and sustainable biomass energy and biofuels.

Finally, like my proposal for a National Energy Education Act that would once again call on a new generation of young scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to tackle the nation's energy innovation challenges, Secretary Chu sees climate change as, "an opportunity to draw young people into science and engineering."

Pointing to the Soviet satellite launch that sparked the Space Race and a period of rapid American innovation, he reminded reporters, "Sputnik drew young people into science and engineering because it was a security issue. [Climate change and fossil fuel dependence] is a world security issue... that will definitely affect us," the Secretary said. "So now you've got something," that can draw together the world's best and brightest "to figure out how to get this second industrial revolution ... this second green revolution" in clean energy technology.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A New Paradigm in Energy Innovation: Energy Discovery-Innovation Institutes

The Brookings Institution officially unveiled a new proposal yesterday calling for "a new paradigm in energy innovation" at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The proposal, which was developed for over a year and is one of the most in-depth proposals for new energy R&D out there, calls for an "order of magnitude" increase in federal energy R&D investment and proposes a new model for clean energy technology research and commercialization: establishing a national network of regionally-based "Energy Discovery-Innovation Institutes" (e-DIIs) to serve as hubs of distributed research linking the nation's best scientists, engineers, and facilities and effectively combining the forces of academia, government and industry.

The report, prepared by Brooking's Metropolitan Policy Program (Metro) concludes:

This report urges two major changes in U.S. energy policy. First, it calls for an order-of-magnitude increase in federal investment levels for energy R&D, as a necessary step to matching the enormous scale of the nation's energy problem with massive efforts to develop market-ready technological solutions. Second, it argues that the complexity of the nation's energy challenges require that the nation make use of decentralized, multidisciplinary, collaboration-oriented new research paradigms better able to integrate scientific research, technology development and commercialization, and the production of human resources across a broad range of scientific, technological, economic, behavioral, and public policy considerations.
More specifically, the report proposes augmenting expanded energy R&D programs across the nation's range of national laboratories and industrial research centers with a new research paradigm proposed by the National Academy of Engineering: a national network of energy discovery-innovation institutes (e-DIIs). Decentralized, multidisciplinary, and applications oriented, the proposed e-DII network would link together a new regionally grounded, "bottom up" drive to accelerate the commercialization of breakthrough technological advances in many domains. When completed, the new network would consist of 20 to 30 e-DIIs, with interagency federal funding building to a total level of $5 to $6 billion a year.
In this video, Mark Muro, a fellow and policy director at Metro and co-author of the new report speaks about energy Discovery-Innovation Institutes and their potential to transform both our nation's energy sources and the economies of metropolitan areas:

Breakthrough Institute's Michael Shellenberger participated in yesterday's e-DII event, where he commended Brookings for advancing critical new investments in energy innovation. Shellenberger also argued for a robust focus on the full chain of energy technology development, from the earlier-stage R&D initiatives that would be performed by e-DIIs on through the later stages of demonstration and early commercialization and deployment.

"What we need is a national strategy to make clean energy cheap," Shellenberger said, pointing out that while the kind of R&D performed by the proposed e-DIIs is essential to this objective, major technology improvements also occur "when you get the technologies out of the labs and start scaling them up, as Denmark did for wind turbines or Japan did for solar panels."

Like the National Energy Education Act proposed by myself and Teryn Norris in June 2008, the Brookings e-DII proposal recognizes the critical role of universities in solving the nation's energy challenges while educating and training a new generation of talented scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. The new e-DII proposal contains the most in-depth analysis of how to harness our nation's high caliber universities and effectively structure and distribute a renewed national focus on energy innovation.

Overall, the Brookings Institution's e-DII proposal represents a major contribution to the energy innovation policy discussion, and its recommendations deserve serious consideration. I was honored to provide comments and advice to the Brookings Metro team during the later stages of the report's preparation and I look forward to future collaboration to advance new thinking on a robust strategy that can drive new innovation and create and deploy the clean energy technologies needed to build a 21st century energy economy. .

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