Former employees of the defunct solar company Solyndra are now eligible for a combined $14.3 million in federal aid, the Labor Department announced Monday. Approved through the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, the 1,100 employees who were laid off after Solyndra went belly up in late August are set to receive payments of about $13,000 each, which will be tacked on to the $535 million in loan guarantees that taxpayers are already on the hook for.
TAA is a federal program designed to compensate and bolster American workers who have lost their jobs due to foreign competition. The program offers a variety of reemployment services and training to help participants obtain new jobs and retain wages comparable to their prior employment.
The notion that fervent Chinese competition is the sole catalyst to American solar companies’ financial woes has been long touted by congressional Democrats and the Obama administration, particularly as Solyndra’s bankruptcy has placed them in the political hot seat. The Labor Department’s approval of the TAA aid reinforces a trade complaint directed against China by a conglomerate of U.S. solar panel manufacturers, and by granting the assistance the department has seemingly indicated that the allegations hold at least some merit.
The increase in federal subsidies for clean energy development from $17 billion in 2007 to $37 billion in 2010 has resulted in a “gold-rush mentality” among developers, according to the New York Times. One of the primary beneficiaries of the rush to feed at the golden trough is David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy, who exclaimed that this was a once-in-a-generation opportunity: “We intend to do as much of this business we can get our hands on. I have never seen anything … in my 20 years in the power industry that involved less risk than these projects. [We are] just filling the desert with [solar] panels.”
Crane was joined by Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve, another company enjoying federal subsidies, who said, “It is like building a hotel, where you know in advance you are going to have 100 percent room occupancy for 25 years.”
NRG Energy’s massive solar panel development, California Valley Solar Ranch, consists of nearly one million solar panels that will, according to proponents, produce enough electricity, on clear days, to power 100,000 homes (at least for a couple of hours each day when the sun is near its peak, and if those numbers aren't being gamed). It also consists of massive subsidies from the federal government, the state of California, and, naturally, increased rates for the taxpayers. According to the Times, nearly all of the $1.6 billion project is being subsidized through loans, grants, subsidies, tax abatements, and forced purchases of the electricity by public utilities at higher prices than energy produced by coal or natural gas.
In late October White House Chief of Staff William Daley ordered a complete review of all loan guarantees the Department of Energy has made to various energy projects. The review “is a tacit acknowledgement that the loan program [that supported the now-bankrupt energy company Solyndra]…has raised enough internal concern that an outside assessment is necessary…”, according the Washington Post.
TransCanada’s much anticipated Keystone XL oil pipeline will endure further delay as the State Department announced Thursday a plan to reroute the pipeline away from certain areas that critics claim are "environmentally sensitive."
In a worst-case scenario, one source warned that the move could ultimately derail the seven-billion-dollar expansion, which would transport Canadian crude oil from the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada, southeast through the U.S. Midwest, and then on to the Gulf Coast. The decision would "effectively kill" the project, said Michael Brune, executive director for the Sierra Club. "The carrying costs are too high, and there’s no certainty that at the end of 18 months the pipeline would be approved at all."
As reported in an earlier story by The New American, the Keystone pipeline was originally proposed in February 2005. It has suffered from intermittent delays throughout each phase of its development. Keystone XL, the extension which would expand the pipeline's reach to the southern region of the United States, is now awaiting final approval from the Obama administration; however, the State Department’s rerouting verdict has shattered federal officials’ pledge that a decision would be made by the end of the year.
Update, November 11, 2011: The joint resolution, S.J. Res. 27, to roll back the EPA's cross-state air pollution rule was rejected by the Senate by 56-41 on November 10.
While the global powers are speculating over the possibility of an Israeli military strike against Iran, many analysts are saying that such an endeavor would steeply raise the price of oil. As a preemptive attack by Israel — on its own — seems increasingly more likely, oil has already increased $1.17 a barrel to $115.73, the highest price in the last two months.
An attack on Iran would likely increase the cost of oil even more dramatically, however. In 2006, when Israel and the United States began to take issue with Iran’s nuclear program, Iran responded by dispatching its Revolutionary Guards to deploy mines in the Strait of Hormuz, through which one-third of the world’s oil passes.
A bipartisan coalition in Congress is going after a European Union scheme to impose carbon taxes on Americans flying to and from Europe, overwhelmingly approving a bill to stop the “illegal” tax. The EU’s CO2 regime is so unpopular that governments around the world and even the United Nations have also asked the bloc to back down.
The European carbon plan would force all airlines flying to or from Europe — regardless of where they took off or their destination — to participate in the EU’s “Emissions Trading System.” Due to begin in January of next year, the scheme means each flight would have to acquire so-called “carbon credits” to offset the CO2 released during flight.
On Wednesday, the state of North Dakota joined several power cooperatives in filing a lawsuit against the Attorney General of the neighboring state of Minnesota over Minnesota's restrictions on emissions from out-of-state electricity generators. The law involved in the controversy, Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act (NGEA), was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by then-Governor Tim Pawlenty in 2007.
A July 21, 2010 memo by John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology and Peter Orzag, director of the Office of Management and the Budget, said that $450 billion, or about three percent of the nation’s GDP, would be spent by public and private sources for research and development with a priority on “solar energy, next-generation biofuels, and sustainable green buildings and building retrofit technologies.”
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Cybercast News Service (CNS) obtained a copy of the memo, which was directed to all executive branch heads of departments and agencies in developing budget priorities. The communication also demands that “understanding, adapting to and mitigating the impacts of global climate change” be a budget priority, as well as insisting that agencies should
prioritize research for measuring, reporting and verifying greenhouse gas emissions. Support, within coordinated interagency investments in the U.S. Global Change Research Program, an integrated and continuing National Climate Assessment of climate change science, impacts, vulnerabilities, and response strategies, including mitigation and adaptation.…
Agencies should pursue transformational solutions to the Nation’s practical challenges, and budget submission should therefore explain how agencies will support long-term, visionary thinkers proposing high-risk, high-return (or "potentially transformative") research.
With the discovery of huge oil fields off the coast of Brazil in the fall of 2007 came estimates of just what impact they would have on Brazil’s already booming economy. Prior to the discovery of “pre-salt” reserves estimated to be the size of Florida and in excess of 120 billion barrels, Brazil’s economy was already considered to be the 7th largest in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the CIA.
But as the resources are developed, to many observers Brazil is a cinch to take over 6th place by replacing Great Britain in the size of its economy. It’s economy in 2004 was one-third that of Great Britain’s but by 2007 it had grown to half. With the great recession costing the United Kingdom 20 percent of its GDP between 2007 and 2010, and Brazil’s continuing to grow apace by nearly 52 percent, the IMF now estimates that Brazil will take over 6th place by the end of this year.
The technological challenges facing Petrobas, Brazil’s main oil producer, are immense. In order to reach the oil, it will have to drill through four miles of ocean and rocks and a thick layer of salt. And then retrieving it and turning it into a profitable revenue stream will be the next challenge. Brazil’s politicians are already calling it “the pot of gold at the bottom of the ocean” and are considering how the revenues might be used to further the government’s endless list of priorities.