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Priorities, Priorities: "Kardashians Get 40 Times More News Coverage Than Ocean Acidification"

We already knew the Kardashians desperately needed to get real jobs, but how about the media focusing on real priorities instead of this silliness?

"Gas industry got three laps around the track when everyone else was still at the starting gate"

The Times Union has a fascinating story, highlighting how the cozy relationship between natural gas fracking companies and the government works at the state level. In this case, it's New York, but we'd argue it could happen anywhere.

Several Problems with Increased Oil Drilling in the Arctic

Earlier this week, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that, "with the conditions Shell has already met, it is highly likely the permits will be issued" for oil drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas offshore Alaska. According to Secretary Salazar, development of these oil fields will "contribute to the ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy this administration is pursuing," and "will not take place without adequate protections for the environment and local communities." In fact, Secretary Salazar is so confident about this oil drilling that he declared uncategorically, "there’s not going to be an oil spill."

Tigercomm’s Mark Sokolove to Speak at CSP Today Conference on “Communicating the Value of CSP to the Public”

Last week, we interviewed Belen Gallego, Founder & Director at CSP Today and PV Insider, in conjunction with the CSP Today 6th Concentrated Solar Thermal Power USA Conference she’s putting on in Las Vegas this Wednesday and Thursday (June 27-28). In addition, yesterday we published our interview with Frank “Tex” Wilkins, Executive Director of the Concentrating Solar Power Alliance (CSPA). This Wednesday, Wilkins will be speaking on a panel moderated by Fred Morse of Abengoa Solar, and including Tigercomm Vice President Mark Sokolove.

Is Keystone "Diluted Bitumen" Pipeline a Disaster Waiting to Happen?

According to a three-part series by InsideClimateNews (also available on eBook), a major spill of dirty, acidic, abrasive Canadian "diluted bitumen" from a "30-inch carbon steel pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy Partners, the U.S. branch of Enbridge Inc., Canada's largest transporter of crude oil" into a Michigan creek and river in  July 2010 was clearly a disaster in and of itself. Even worse, that spill could foretell even worse to come if the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is ultimately approved. According to InsideClimateNews:

Non-Competitive Bidding for Coal Mining Rights a $28.9 Billion Taxpayer-Funded Subsidy?

A story by reporter Juliet Eilperin in yesterday's Washington Post highlighted yet another way in which U.S. taxpayers subsidize the fossil fuel industry in this country. This time, it's coal, and it's a lot of money if the analysis is correct:

Instead of Increasing A/C, How About Focusing on Efficiency, Smart Architecture, Natural Cooling?

If you're like most Americans during the hot summer months, your response is basically to crank up the air conditioning.  Which is wonderful, except for a few issues being discussed on the New York Times "Room for Debate" page. For instance, that "the demand for coolant gases, especially in rapidly developing countries like India, threatens to accelerate global warming." Or, as author Stan Cox points out:

"The Sky is Pink" Highlights Gas Industry Disinformation Campaign on Fracking

“Are we wildly underestimating solar and wind power?”

Earlier this week, the Washington Post asked a fascinating and important question:  namely,  "Are we wildly underestimating solar and wind power?" Here are the key conclusions:

Expert: Toxic Pollution of Water Supplies Due to Fracking Will Cause "a lot of people...to get sick"

This story is disturbing, if sadly not surprising.

Stanford Geophysicist: Carbon Sequestration "too expensive and too risky"

An article in the Los Angeles Times earlier this week highlights why the adverse environmental consequences stemming from the production and consumption of fossil fuels are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate. In this case, it turns out that "carbon capture and sequestration" (CCS) not only can cause earthquakes (which "would almost certainly ruin the CCS site and return it to square one"), but it's extremely expensive as well.

Interview: CSP Today Founder Belen Gallego on the Future of Concentrated Solar Power

The following interview is with Belen Gallego, Founder & Director at CSP Today and PV Insider.  Ms. Gallego is also in charge of CSP Today's range of conferences and trade shows, including the upcoming CSP Today 6th Concentrated Solar Thermal Power USA Conference, being held in Las Vegas beginning on June 27-28.  For a helpful discussion of CSP, see the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's page on this topic. Also, thanks very much to Belen Gallego for taking time out of preparing for the upcoming conference to provide thorough, detailed responses to our questions!

Scaling Green Question #1: What do you see as the main opportunities and challenges – economic, political, technological, etc. - facing solar power generally, and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) specifically, in the United States?

Belen Gallego: In order for the CSP industry to further develop, we need to look at resolving a few challenges for sure. Economic challenges aren't a rare occurrence at the moment, unfortunately. In fact, they affect most industries, as they are to a very large extent due to the world financial and economic situation. CSP is a proven, bankable technology, and in normal circumstances  it would be possible to finance even large-scale projects.

The biggest technological challenge that we have right now is reducing costs. This is already well under way, as costs have dropped significantly over the past 6 years of plants in operation, although more remains to be done. We need to remember that the rate of cost reduction in CSP is very respectable compared to many other industries. If I remember correctly, 6 years ago we were talking about $4.50 per installed watt for PV and now we are at less than $1.00 per installed watt.  This leapfrog type of development does happen, but it needs time and critical mass. Keep in mind that the PV industry had a history of 20+ years before CSP!

The political challenge, which is also a NIMBY challenge, that we face is communication. Renewable energy appeals to the end consumer, as well as to governments, and that appeal makes sense, because to avoid climate change and an uncertain energy outlook, we must develop the right technologies. However, as a niche industry, I believe that CSP isn't doing all we can to communicate the immense value that CSP has for grid stability, for example. It is by communicating the inherent value added of CSP that the technology's full potential  and key role to play will be understood.

In the end, I feel that often the greatest challenge is to be patient. Infrastructure projects of this size and complexity take years to come to completion, and for the market to gain gravitas takes much longer. We have come a long way already, and sometimes we forget that the time scales involved makes it difficult as a speculative market. CSP development may be slower, but it is organic and sustainable.  You just can't compare the CSP industry with the dotcom boom; it doesn’t work like that.

Scaling Green Question #2: According to a recent article at CSP Today, “Growth in the Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) sector faltered last year as photovoltaic (PV) module prices dropped,” but in the long run “CSP’s ability to incorporate thermal storage and to supplement conventional power generation offers benefits beyond the value of the kilowatt-hours they generate.” How do you see this situation evolving in coming years, and specifically do you believe that CSP will gain on PV in terms of cost competitiveness in the near term?

Belen Gallego: When people ask me this question, I like to compare the Spanish and U.S. markets  because I feel that the Spain is a small case study of what will happen in a bigger market like the United States. In Spain, we have a very well-managed national grid, which is relatively modern.  We built in 2008-2009 over 4GW of PV, as well as over 21GW of wind capacity as of 2012. The renewable energy electricity production share hovers around 20%. However, what is not widely known is that at certain times of the year, sometimes in the right conditions the share of energy produced from renewables can reach as high as 50%. That amount of peak power is difficult for the grid to integrate, to the extent that plants sometimes need to be disconnected, meaning that the energy is lost because the grid can´t absorb it. It is only a matter of time until the United States has this kind of peak power integration problem, and CSP with storage can really help manage this issue.

U.S. Bancorp Funding for SolarCity "speaks volumes about the value of investing in solar"

Need any more evidence that the solar industry is not just surviving, but thriving, in the United States?  How about this?

Yet Another Type of Taxpayer-Funded Corporate Welfare to the Natural Gas Industry

Clearly, there are many different forms of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare going to the fossil fuel industry: direct subsidies, tax incentives, preferential treatment of various kinds, waiving or loosening health and safety regulations on the industry's operations, ensuring that there is as large a market for fossil fuels (e.g., in putting policy emphasis on making oil-powered transportation options as relatively attractive as possible) as possible, and many others. Now, we have a great example of yet another type of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare to an industry that most certainly doesn't need it.

Join Us in Celebrating Solar!

IEA Report: Global Clean Energy System Possible, Necessary, Economical, Must be Rapidly Scaled Up

The International Energy Agency is out with an important new report, "Energy Technology Perspectives 2012: Pathways to a Clean Energy System," which argues strongly that a sustainable, clean energy system is not only possible, it's also absolutely necessary, economical, and must be scaled up as rapidly as possible. Here are a few key points from the report's executive summary:

Moody's: Coal Share of U.S. Generation to Drop Sharply; Gas and Renewables to Replace It

A new, private report by Moody's Investor Service ("U.S. Electric Power Generation Volumes: Shift in Electric Generation Mix Favors Natural Gas, Renewables at Expense of Coal"), discussed here by Energy Watch, forecasts that the long reign of King Coal in the U.S. power mix may soon be reaching its end.

The Dark Side of North Dakota's Oil and Gas "Fracking" Boom

InsideClimateNews reports on the dark side of North Dakota's oil and gas "fracking" boom:

Could U.S. Oil and Gas Boom Lead to "Dutch Disease" in U.S. Economy?

If you're familiar with the concept of "Dutch Disease" - "a concept that explains the apparent relationship between the increase in exploitation of natural resources and a decline in the manufacturing sector." - you're undoubtedly aware that it's not a good thing for a country's economy. You're also undoubtedly aware that "Dutch Disease" isn't limited to any specific country, that it's a general concept applicable anywhere.  Which leads us to the question, raised by the American Security Project: "Will Dutch Disease Follow the American Energy Boom?" As the American Security Project points out, this concern isn't just theoretical:

Spoof Video Highlights Folly of Shell Oil Drilling in the Arctic


Yes, this video is a spoof - not a real event by Shell Oil - yet we thought it was worth posting for one big reason: it highlights the folly of Shell Oil drilling in the Arctic. As Rebeccal Leber of ClimateProgress explains:

PA Demonstrates that Taxpayer-Funded Corporate Welfare for the Fossil Fuel Industry Is Thriving at the State Level Too

At this point, we are all well aware that the federal government has lavished enormous implicit and explicit taxpayer-funded corporate welfare on the oil, coal, and natural gas industries for many decades now.  Less attention, however, is paid to the same thing going on at the state level.  Here's a case in point from Pennsylvania:

New Report: Enormous "Intelligent Efficiency" Potential "Could Slash 12-22 Percent of Current U.S. Energy Use"

A new report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), really jumped out at us, not just because it points to a paradigm shift in the way we think about energy efficiency, but because of the enormous potential that exists in this area. A few highlights from the report illustrate what we mean:

Wall Street Journal Article Focuses On Solar Industry, Completely Ignores Much Larger Fossil Fuel Political Clout in Washington, DC

We've written extensively here at Scaling Green about the enormous, taxpayer-funded subsidies (and other forms of corporate welfare) the fossil fuel industries have received over the years. We've also pointed to reports demonstrating that support for fossil fuels has far outpaced support for clean energy.  Why has this been the case?  In part, it's because of enormous political clout, greased by large-scale campaign contributions, wielded by the fossil fuel industries. For instance, the Checks and Balances Project noted that "48 senators who have received a total of $21 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry" voted to keep Big Oil on the taxpayer dole, while 52 senators who received a fraction of that money from Big Oil voted the other way. Coincidence? We think not.

New "Clean Economy, Living Planet" Report Ranks Countries, Offers Advice for Winning the Clean Energy Race

Yesterday, at Windpower 2012, a new report on the clean energy economy ("Clean Economy, Living Planet - The Race to the Top of Global Clean Energy Technology Manufacturing, 2012") was released.   The report, prepared by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, ranks cleantech sales per country for "the 27 EU member states, the G7 countries, the BRIC countries, and South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, Indonesia and Australia."

Penn State Professor: "'Clean Coal' Propaganda" is "Deceptive" and "Unethical"

At Penn State University's Climate Ethics blog, Professor Donald Brown has an informative op-ed discussing the many ways in which clean coal propaganda is "misleading," "deceptive,"  and "unethical." With regard to coal industry advertising campaigns being "misleading" and "deceptive," Professor Brown explains (bolding added for emphasis):

Natural Gas Industry: On the Dole Around the World

If you thought that fossil fuels like natural gas were only on the taxpayer-funded government dole in the United States, well think again.

Heritage Foundation Almost, but Not Quite, Ideologically Consistent on Energy Subsidies

The Heritage Foundation is out with a four-point argument about why taxpayer-funded energy subsidies are a bad idea. According to Heritage, subsidies: a) “destroy jobs elsewhere;” b) “promote crony capitalism;” c) “create industry dependence on government;” and d) “waste taxpayer dollars.”