Posts tagged ‘Renewable Energy’

Oil spill seen as energy opportunity for Obama

Some environmentalists and liberal lawmakers believe the BP oil spill has handed President Obama a significant political opportunity to renew his stalled energy and climate bill, and are urging him to push for sweeping legislation to move the country away from reliance on oil and other fossil fuels.

An oil boom stretches across an opening in Lake Eloie near Shell Beach, La.

“He needs a response which is as big as the spill is,” said Wesley Warren, program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington.

The climate bill that White House officials have been negotiating called for limited greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, transportation fuels and eventually factories. It included large incentives for drilling offshore, nuclear power plant construction and so-called “clean-coal” technology. It also would have required set levels of renewable electricity use nationwide. The bill included several sweeteners to minimize the cost for industry.

But that bill has bogged down in the Senate. And while White House officials continue to call for an energy bill this year, Obama has not publicly linked the call to the gulf spill.

Many environmentalists believe it will now be politically easier now to strengthen the clean-energy provisions of the bill and jettison industry breaks. But many longtime energy analysts say Obama’s options are limited for reducing the nation’s reliance on oil.

“In the near term — near term being 20 years — there is no meaningful alternative to using oil in the transportation sector” on a wide scale, said Charles Ebinger, director of the energy security initiative at the Brookings Institution.

Still, the nation’s reliance on gasoline means choosing between imported oil or increased domestic production — and there, the gulf spill may have an impact.

All signs from Capitol Hill suggest that Obama’s expanded drilling plans will find little support in light of the BP leak.

Environmental groups want the administration to push for enhanced oil recovery on land, especially if gasoline prices spike again and public pressure mounts for more domestic production.

Some drilling advocates are pushing the administration to keep its response to the spill narrowly focused.

“Getting to the bottom of this, considering adding safeguards, things that could prevent this spill from happening again and things getting out of hand” — those should be Obama’s focus, said Ben Lieberman, an energy expert at the free-market Heritage Foundation.

Many economists say Obama’s best chance to reframe the energy debate — and dramatically cut oil use — could also be the least popular—a large gasoline tax on gasoline, with the proceeds dedicated to alternative fuel research, reducing the federal budget deficit, or even refunded to consumers.

White House officials pushed back against a modest proposed fee on gasoline in negotiations over a Senate climate bill.

In an interview Tuesday, one of Obama’s top energy advisors, Carol Browner, said “There’s no doubt that portions of the debate are going to change” because of the gulf spill.

She added: “We want to evaluate, at the end of the day, are we doing what we can to break our dependence on foreign oil… are we putting a cap on dangerous greenhouse-gas pollution? There’s more than one way to get it done.”

If Obama can’t sell an energy transformation after this spill, Ebinger said, “He will miss a unique opportunity to point out to the people, ‘This is a situation we got ourselves into… let’s not be sitting here five to 10 years from now and be saying, we didn’t do anything to address it.'”

For more click HERE


May 5, 2010 at 10:14 AM Leave a comment

NREL Highlights Utility Green Power Leaders: Annual assessment shows more consumers making clean power choices

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) today released its annual assessment of leading utility green power programs.  Under these voluntary programs, consumers can choose to help support additional electricity production from renewable resources such as wind and solar.

According to the NREL analysis, more than 850 utilities across the United States now offer green power programs. Utility green power sales in 2009 exceeded 6 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), and they represent more than 5 percent of total electricity sales for some of the most popular programs. Wind energy represents approximately two-thirds of electricity generated for green energy programs nationwide.

“Despite the economic downturn, consumers are continuing to support the development of renewable energy by voluntarily participating in utility green power programs,” said NREL senior energy analyst Lori Bird. “These utilities are the national leaders.”

Using information provided by utilities, NREL developed “Top 10” rankings of utility programs for 2009 in the following categories: total sales of renewable energy to program participants, total number of customer participants, the percentage of customer participation, green power sales as a percentage of total utility retail electricity sales, and the lowest price premium charged for a green power program using new renewable resources.

Ranked by renewable energy sales (kWh/year), Austin Energy in Austin, Texas sold the largest amount of renewable energy in the nation through its voluntary green power program. Rounding out the top five are Portland General Electric (Oregon), PacifiCorp (Ore. and five other states), the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (Calif.), and Xcel Energy (Col., Minn., Wis. and New Mexico).

Ranked by the percentage of customer participation, the top utilities are City of Palo Alto Utilities (Calif.), Portland General Electric, Madison Gas and Electric Company (Wis.), the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and the City of Naperville (Ill.). (See attached tables for additional rankings).

“Participating in green power programs is one way that consumers can support renewable energy development and reduce their environmental footprint,” said NREL analyst Jenny Sumner. More than 650,000 customers are participating in utility programs nationwide.

Utility green pricing programs are one segment of a larger green power marketing industry that counts Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and colleges and universities among its customers, and helps support more than 6,000 MW of renewable electricity generation capacity.

NREL analysts attribute the success of many programs to continued efforts by utilities and their partners to raise awareness of the availability of green power options.  In addition, the rate premium that customers pay for green power continues to drop.  The average net price premium for utility green power products has decreased from 3.48¢/kWh in 2000 to 1.75¢/kWh in 2009.

The Green Power assessment was performed by NREL’s Strategic Energy Analysis Center (SEAC), which integrates technical and economic analyses and leads NREL’s efforts in applying clean energy technologies to both national and international markets.

NREL released its first annual Green Power study in 2000.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

Visit NREL online at

Green Pricing Program Renewable Energy Sales
(as of December 2009)
Rank Utility Resources Used Sales (kWh/year) Sales (aMW)a
1 Austin Energy Wind, landfill gas 764,895,830 87.3
2 Portland General Electricb Wind, biomass, geothermal 740,880,487 84.6
3 PacifiCorpcde Wind, biomass, landfill gas, solar 578,744,080 66.1
4 Sacramento Municipal Utility Districtc Wind, hydro, biomass, solar 377,535,530 43.1
5 Xcel Energycf Wind, solar 374,296,375 42.7
6 Puget Sound Energycg Wind, landfill gas, biomass, small hydro, solar 303,046,167 34.6
7 Connecticut Light and Power/       United Illuminating Wind, hydro 197,458,734 22.5
8 National Gridh Biomass, wind, small hydro, solar 174,536,130 19.9
9 Public Service Company of New Mexico Wind 173,863,751 19.8
10 We Energiesc Wind, landfill gas, solar 173,217,802 19.8

a An “average megawatt” (aMW) is a measure of continuous capacity equivalent (i.e. operating at a 100% capacity factor).
b Marketed in partnership with Green Mountain Energy Company.
c Product is Green-e Energy ( certified.
d Some Oregon products marketed in partnership with 3Degrees Group Inc.
e Includes Pacific Power and Rocky Mountain Power.
f Includes Northern States Power, Public Service Company of Colorado and Southwestern Public Service.
g Residential product marketed in partnership with 3Degrees Group Inc.
h Includes Niagara Mohawk, Massachusetts Electric, Narragansett Electric, and Nantucket Electric.

Green Power Sales as a Percentage of Total Retail Electricity Sales (in kWh)
(as of December 2009)
Rank Utility Program(s) % of Load
1 Waterloo Utilitiesa Renewable Energy Programb 21.4%
2 Edmond Electricc Pure and Simple 8.1%
3 Portland General Electricd Clean Wind, Green Source, Renewable Future 7.9%
4 City of Palo Alto Utilitiese Palo Alto Greenb 6.9%
5 Austin Energy Green Choice 6.4%
6 River Falls Municipal Utilities Renewable Energy Programa 6.2%
7 Madison Gas and Electric Green Power Tomorrow 4.9%
8 Sacramento Municipal Utility District Greenergyb 3.6%
9 Park Electric Cooperativef Green Power Program 3.4%
10 PacifiCorp (Oregon only)be Blue Sky Blockb, Blue Sky Usageb, Blue Sky Habitat 2.8%

a Power supplied by WPPI Energy.
b Product is Green-e Energy certified.
c Power supplied by Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority.
d Marketed in partnership with Green Mountain Energy Company.
e Marketed in partnership with 3Degrees Group Inc.
f Power supplied by Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

Total Number of Customer Participants
(as of December 2009)
Rank Utility Program(s) Participants
1 Portland General Electrica Clean Wind, Green Source, Renewable Future 72,812
2 PacifiCorpbc Blue Sky Blockd, Blue Sky Usaged, Blue Sky Habitat 71,165
3 Xcel Energye WindSourced, Renewable Energy Trust 70,393
4 Sacramento Municipal Utility District Greenergyd 50,250
5 PECOf PECO WIND 34,491
6 Puget Sound Energycg Green Power Program 25,789
7 National Gridh GreenUp 22,888
8 Connecticut Light and Power/United Illuminating CTCleanEnergyOptions 22,336
9 We Energies Energy for Tomorrowd 20,927
10 Iberdrola USA: NYSEG and RG&Ef Catch the Wind 20,386

a Marketed in partnership with Green Mountain Energy Company.
b Includes Pacific Power and Rocky Mountain Power.
c Some Oregon products marketed in partnership with 3Degrees Group Inc.
d Product is Green-e Energy certified.
e Includes Northern States Power, Public Service Company of Colorado and Southwestern Public Service.
f Marketed in partnership with Community Energy Inc.
g Residential product marketed in partnership with 3Degrees Group Inc.
h Includes Niagara Mohawk, Massachusetts Electric, Narragansett Electric, and Nantucket Electric.

Customer Participation Rate
(as of December 2009)
Rank Utility Program(s) Customer Participation Rate Program Start Year
1 City of Palo Alto Utilitiesa Palo Alto Greenb 20.8% 2003
2 Portland General Electricc Clean Wind, Green Source, Renewable Future 10.2% 2002
3 Madison Gas and Electric Green Power Tomorrow 9.6% 1999
4 Sacramento Municipal Utility District Greenergyb 8.5% 1997
5 City of Napervilled Renewable Energy Program 8.4% 2005
6 Silicon Valley Powera Santa Clara Green Powerb 8.1% 2004
7 Pacific Power – Oregon Onlya Blue Sky Blockb, Blue Sky Usageb, Blue Sky Habitat 6.5% 2002
8 River Falls Municipal Utilitiese Renewable Energy Programb 5.8% 2001
9 Stoughton Utilitiese Renewable Energy Programb 5.2% 2002
10 Lake Mills Light & Watere Renewable Energy Programb 5.1% 2002
10 Pacific County PUD Green Power Tomorrow 5.1% 2002

a Marketed in partnership with 3Degrees Group Inc.
b Product is Green-e Energy certified.
c Marketed in partnership with Green Mountain Energy Company.
d Marketed in partnership with Community Energy Inc.
e Power supplied by WPPI Energy.

Price Premium Charged for New, Customer-Driven Renewable Power
(as of December 2009)
Rank Utility Resources Used Premium (¢/kWh)
1 Edmond Electricab Wind -0.17
2 OG&E Companyac Wind 0.28
3 Avista Utilities Wind, landfill gas, hydro 0.33
4 Park Electric Cooperatived Wind 0.39
5 Arizona Public Service Companye Wind, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, solar 0.40
6 Indianapolis Power & Light Company Wind 0.42
7 Flathead Electric Cooperatived Wind 0.50
7 Sacramento Municipal Utility Districte Wind, hydro, biomass, solar 0.50
9 Xcel Energy (New Mexico)ae Wind, solar 0.75
10 Emerald People’s Utility District Landfill gas, wind, biomass 0.80

a Premium is variable; customers in these programs are exempt or otherwise protected from changes in utility fuel charges.
b Power supplied by Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority.
c OG&E Company offers two rate structures for its Wind Power program; the lowest premium is for the rate which exempts customers from the fuel charge.
d Power is supplied by Basin Electric Power Cooperative.
e Product is Green-e Energy certified.

May 4, 2010 at 10:03 AM Leave a comment

New State-by-State Wind Power Data Helps Build a Green Grid

New wind resource maps and wind potential tables for the lower 48 states were recently released by AWS Truewind in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). This new data marks the first state-by-state comprehensive update of wind energy potential since 1993. Accurate information about the wind resources available in each state will help keep the momentum in wind energy development going strong in 2010. If state and federal policies need valid evidence of wind potential to promote this clean energy source, then that data has arrived.

We know that wind power is an inexhaustible source of energy that can play a large part in creating a sustainable future, but there are real-life factors that keep this resource grounded. Transmission and storage of the generated energy requires a modern power infrastructure that is expensive and controversial. Additionally, developers need a stable policy environment if they are expected to commit to long-term projects with tremendous up-front costs. But no wind-power skeptic can spend a few days in Texas and claim that wind is not a viable solution to our future energy woes — just check the new map.

At the 80-meter height, the estimated wind energy potential of available development sites yield 10,459GW (gigawatts) of installed capacity. The new estimates are available on the AWS Truewind website and the NREL website. The current installed wind capacity in the US is 35GW and 158GW world-wide. In 2009, the U.S. wind industry added about 10GW of new capacity, enough to power the equivalent of 2.4 million homes.

The maps and estimates were created with a weather modeling system and then refined with measurements from wind monitoring stations. The NREL has already conducted a preliminary review and validation of the AWS Truewind’s 80 meter map estimates for 19 selected states across the US using wind monitoring station measurements at heights of about 50 meters and above from more than 300 locations. The estimates show the windy land area with a gross capacity factor (without losses) of 30% and greater. Capacity factor compares a turbine’s actual production over a given period of time with the amount of power the plant would have produced if it had run at full capacity, or at full sail, for the same amount of time.

An important consideration for wind energy is its dependency on variable but predictable weather patterns

. For example, average US wind speeds in 2009 were up to 10% lower than their long-term averages in key locations, and they were slightly higher in others. This significant difference was caused by the El Niño climate fluctuation. 3Tier, a renewable energy mapping and data solutions company, provides a visualization of these fluctuations. But wind is not the only renewable that is affected by weather patterns: Solar and hydroelectric power resources are in the same boat.

Large-scale wind power projects need more than just good data on placement locations. They need a way to tie into the grid and sell that clean wind energy to big urban markets. Currently, this is a significant factor affecting the viability of many wind power projects. A speedy transition to a clean energy economy needs a Renewable Energy Transmission Highway, and this is one of the legislative priorities of the American Wind Energy Association. While an improved transmission grid might conjure up images of even more ghastly metal towers criss-crossing the US, there is a better alternative. Underground super-cooled transmission lines can efficiently transmit electricity when they are refrigerated, and the cost per mile is comparable to the standard above-ground transmission cables. However, this technology requires substations about every mile in order to keep the coolant cold, so it is best for shorter distances. Another technology instead uses direct current (DC) for a high-temperature underground superconducting transmission system. The Electric Power Research Institute recently released a report that indicates the high-temperature superconducting lines are a practical and efficient way to improve electric grids.

The large-scale concept of renewable energy calls for an interconnected, national renewable energy infrastructure so that wind, solar, and hydro developers and utilities can plug in. Others see long-distance transmission as expensive and unnecessary and promote local power generation and storage solutions. The local-power proponents point out that utility companies are lobbying for new transmission lines because they want to sell power regardless of its source. The actual solution that will emerge over the next decade is likely going to be a combination of local and imported power. The utilities themselves foresee a future “hybrid” model of power generation by 2050 that includes both centralized and distributed models. This will create a reliable, efficient, and well-balanced national grid so that the electrons will flow come rain or shine. Some areas of the United States are ideal for wind, while others barely squeeze by that minimum 30% gross capacity factor. For some cities, local power generation simply won’t cut it if there is any chance of weaning the united states off of coal power plants.

Article continues:

May 4, 2010 at 9:44 AM Leave a comment

Sea Wind Power

To this date there is not a single offshore wind turbine been built in the United States. Meanwhile Europe, China and Japan are far along in developing a water based wind power industry. All one needs is a strong and steady wind as well as a relatively easy way to connect o the power grid so as to transmit the power gained from the wind. Most people think of wind power from various land based operations. However, it can be done by basing the wind turbine in the sea.

A wind farm is a group of wind turbines in the same location used for production of electric power. Individual turbines are interconnected with a medium voltage power collection system and communications network. At a substation, this medium voltage electrical current is increased in voltage with a transformer for connection to the high voltage transmission system.

Near shore turbine installations are on land within 5 miles of a shoreline or on water within ten miles. These areas are good sites for turbine installation, because of wind produced by convection due to differential heating of land and sea each day. Wind speeds in these zones share the characteristics of both onshore and offshore wind,depending on the prevailing wind direction.

Offshore wind turbines are less obtrusive than turbines on land, as their apparent size and noise is mitigated by distance. Because water has less surface roughness than land (especially deeper water), the average wind speed is usually considerably higher over open water.

Spain, Denmark, and Germany are Europe’s main wind energy producers. A large wind farm may consist of a few dozen to several hundred individual wind turbines, and cover an extended area of hundreds of square miles, but the land between the turbines may be used for agricultural or other purposes. A wind farm may be located off-shore to take advantage of strong winds blowing over the surface of an ocean or lake.

The United States is behind in developing sea based wind farms for many reasons: economic and regulatory uncertainties, local opposition (not in my backyard), and even the relative bounty of cheaper land based wind power resources have all conspired to slow any drive to develop wind power resources on the sea.

One of the proposed projects is the Long Island — New York City Offshore Wind Project. The proposed project would be located in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 13 nautical miles off the Rockaway Peninsula. It would likely be designed for 350 megawatts (MW) of generation, with the ability to expand it to 700 MW, giving it the potential to be the largest offshore wind project in the country.

The Cape Wind project would lie in the Nantucket Sound off New England. It has been debated for nine years. Some believed the proposed wind farm would cause visual harm to historic sites.

The beleaguered Cape Wind project, which has been struggling to overcome these obstacles for the better part of a decade and now awaits a decision from the Interior Department, is seen as a bellwether for the industry.

Canada may end up with the first North American sea based wind farm.

“Canada is actually in a pretty good place right now,”� said Matthew Kaplan, a senior analyst with Emerging Energy Research, a market research firm based in Cambridge, Mass. Mr. Kaplan pointed to the generous incentives for renewable energy development that provincial leaders in Ontario put in place last fall.

This month the Ontario Power Authority announced that it had, in just a few months after introducing the increased incentives, awarded contracts worth $8 billion for development of some 2,500 megawatts of new renewable energy projects — or roughly the capacity of two midsized nuclear power plants.  Among the beneficiaries is Windstream Energy, which plans to build a 300-megawatt wind facility on about 48,000 acres of shallow water near Wolfe Island (Great Lakes region).

The Wall Street Journal noted last week that both sides of the Great Lakes are ripe for wind power development — but whether Windstream, Cape Wind or some other developer will prove to be the first to get an offshore project up and running on this continent remains anybody’s guess.

None of these projects are going tio be running soon. At best it might occur by 2012.

For more click HERE

April 28, 2010 at 9:25 AM Leave a comment

One Step Forward for Biomass Power

Posted by: Jonathan Marshall


Like Rodney Dangerfield, electric power plants that burn biomass don’t get much respect in this age of high-tech solar and wind energy. But the conditional approval last week by the California Public Utilities Commission of a deal between PG&E and the owners of a small cogeneration plant near Bakersfield bodes well for the future contribution of biomass to a cleaner environment. 

The Mt. Poso Cogeneration Company has operated a coal-fired cogeneration facility (combined power plant and industrial heat source) since 1989. Now it plans to convert the facility to burn agricultural and urban wood waste–everything from orchard prunings to clean demolition wood–to generate 44 megawatts of power, enough to meet the needs of about 47,000 average homes. Unless engineering or economic obstacles emerge, the plant should begin feeding biomass power into PG&E’s grid by 2012. 

The plant will divert woody biomass, which would have been burned in the open, to a combustion facility with modern emissions control equipment. And it will reduce carbon pollution by substituting biomass–which might otherwise have decayed, releasing greenhouse gases–in place of coal. 

The retrofitting of old coal plants to run with at least some biomass won a ringing endorsement in a new study published by the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology. Substituting wood pellets for just 10 percent of the coal used in power plants in the United States and Canada would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 170 million metric tons each year, it concluded. 

The idea is catching on. In December 2006, Public Service of New Hampshire began running a 50 MW former coal-fired plant entirely on wood chips. Portland General Electric is now seriously considering converting Oregon’s only coal-fired plant to burning wood pellets. And several other cogeneration plants in PG&E’s service area are considering similar conversions. 

California likely could do even more. Currently, biomass accounts for only about two percent of the state’s power (comparable to wind and small hydro). David Bischel, president of the California Forestry Association, has argued that dead trees, scrub brush and other wood waste are abundantly available as fuel for additional power generation. 

Biomass generation isn’t a cure-all, but it’s an important part of the clean-energy solution, even for transportation. As noted previously in NEXT100, some scientists have determined that in most cases it’s better for the environment to burn biomass to generate electricity for plug-in vehicles rather than converting it to biofuel to run in traditional engines.

February 11, 2010 at 12:03 PM Leave a comment

Another take on Ethanol

Why Ethanol isn’t Helping Anyone

June 3, 2009
By Noam Ross

We’ve entered another ugly battle in the ethanol wars. The EPA released an analysis [last May]  purporting that corn-based ethanol is actually worse for the climate than gasoline on a lifecycle basis, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released a ruling that will effectively exclude corn-based ethanol from California’s Renewable Fuels Standard for that reason.

The ethanol industry and its supporters are livid. House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), a longtime ethanol supporter, threw a fit during a recent hearing and now is threatening to block climate legislation over the new rules. “I don’t care,” he exclaimed during a hearing over EPA’s draft rule, “Even if you fix this. I don’t trust anybody anymore — I’ve had it.” Ethanol opponents are cheering the agencies’ decisions and urging them to look at ethanol under worst-case scenarios.

What is sad about this spat is that while everyone is arguing over whether ethanol is bad, no one is talking about how to make it better. The worst impacts of ethanol occur far from Iowa or Washington in the forests that are burned down to respond to added demand for cropland.

Deforestation results in almost 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and it will not be solved through tired finger pointing. This problem is hard but solvable if we focus on the systemic drivers of slash-and-burn agriculture.

A quick primer on the latest wrinkle from the EPA and CARB: Both reached damning conclusions about the impact of ethanol based on complex economic modeling, but the basic logic behind their analysis is simple:

Using farmland for ethanol diverts land from being used for food production, driving up price and demand
Higher prices and demand encourage farmers in the developing world to plant more crops
Developing world farmers clear and burn forests so they can plant more crops
Clearing forest for cropland releases a tremendous amount of greenhouse gas
Thus, devoting cropland to ethanol production leads to increases in greenhouse gas emissions
The ethanol industry and its supporters don’t dispute this logic, but claim two problems with the agencies’ approach: (1) The science behind this economic modeling is too new and imprecise, and (2) biofuels are being held to a much tougher standard than other climate solutions. Their opponents hold that the science is sound, and that other low-carbon technologies simply don’t have these massive “indirect land-use” problems.

Yet this debate is just so much fiddling while Rome (or maybe Indonesia) burns. The crux of the problem is not in how we measure the impact of ethanol, it is that developing world farmers clear and burn forests so they can plant more crops. Ethanol is just one of the pressures that speed the disastrous destruction of these forests. The rest is just an accounting exercise.

Farmers in the developing world burn forests because it is the most economical, and often only, choice they have. They often can’t afford fertilizers, equipment or high-yield seeds. They have limited access to informational tools like education, soil tests and precision agriculture technology that would allow them to produce more crops in the same place. Without these resources, the only choice is to find new land.

Moreover, there is little or no barrier to slash-and-burn agriculture. Logging roads often give farmers access to virgin forests. Not enough forests are protected, and where they are, many governments lack the resources or the will to enforce conservation laws.

The solutions to these problems are not easy, but models exist. Technology transfer and economic development programs can increase crop yields and reduce the real costs of agricultural technology. A global agreement on REDD (reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation) could protect forests and provide payments from a global trust fund as an alternative to chopping trees down.

In order to reduce the lifecycle impact of ethanol, the industry needs to do more than cry foul on these regulations. It needs to be engaged in finding solutions to reduce the pressure to clear land for agriculture. A forward-thinking producer would be lobbying for global forest protection and working with partners in the agricultural industry to support technology transfer to the rural poor.

Meanwhile, ethanol’s detractors need to admit that producers can’t bear this burden alone, and that failing to compromise with such a politically powerful industry will lead only to delay and more poorly designed policies.

Here’s a modest proposal: Congress lets the ethanol industry off the hook for its indirect upstream effects, and the industry agrees that some of its massive subsidies be diverted to programs that protect forests and give farmers options beyond burning them down. Putting more resources toward these programs will not only protect forests from the indirect effects of ethanol, but also the threats of logging, development or other future pressures on agricultural growth.

We will see many more of these fights in the coming years as industries, activists and policymakers argue over who has to bear the burden for indirect, unanticipated environmental and social damages. We need a systemic approach that tackles the problems on the ground, instead of shifting the blame around.

Noam Ross is a senior analyst at GreenOrder, an LRN Company. GreenOrder is a strategy and management consulting firm that has helped leading companies turn sustainability into business value since 2000.

February 3, 2010 at 1:03 PM 1 comment

Obama Talks Clean Energy But Little About Renewables

Comment on this post Posted by John Davis – January 27th, 2010

ObamafirstunionIf renewable energy advocates had hoped for a big mention during Pres. Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address, they probably are walking away from tonight’s speech feeling a bit left out.

While the president did make quick mentions of solar, biofuels and clean energy, Obama did not unveil any grand plan to use renewable energy to help move the nation forward. The Washington Times reports that, unlike his predecessor, Pres. George W. Bush, who in 2006 talked about the need to stop the nation’s “addiction” to foreign oil and to embrace ethanol and other renewable fuel sources, Obama seemed to leave most talk about renewable energy, especially biodiesel and ethanol, by the wayside. And while it might seem trivial, a mention in the State of the Union can make a big difference:

“It can have a very significant impact,” said Bob Dinneen, chief executive officer of the Renewable Fuels Association.

“It really teed up a discussion about energy policy and led to the passage of the energy bill in 2007 that resulted in the renewable-fuel standard in this country,” Mr. Dinneen said. “So it was an important catalyst.”

But of course, one speech is not the end-all and be-all for any program, and we’ll really need to see how Obama does make clean energy a priority … and the role renewables will play.

January 28, 2010 at 10:38 AM Leave a comment

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