General Motors will buy Chevrolet Volts back from any owner who worries that their plug-in electric car will catch fire, the company’s CEO told the Associated Press in an interview Thursday. CEO Dan Akerson maintained that the vehicles are safe, but said GM is offering the buyback to ensure customer loyalty. The new offer expands a company offer made Monday to grant loaner cars to any owners fearful of their Volts catching fire.
During a government investigation into the safety of Chevy’s electric cars, three fires broke out days after side-impact crash tests were administered. GM officials, however, insisted that there is no threat of fires immediately following car crashes, as the fires occurred seven days to three weeks after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performed the tests.
The crash tests punctured the cases of the batteries, and leaking battery coolant could have spurred the delayed ignition in the regulators’ undrained Volt batteries, Chevy spokesman Rob Peterson suggested. But Chevy is not planning a battry storage redesign at the moment. Considering that the fires did not occur until days later, some GM officials alleged that the crashed Volts were not stored properly. Still, the NHTSA has launched a safety probe into the battery malfunctions and has requested that other electric car manufacturers submit battery testing data as well.
Despite billions in taxpayer subsidies pumped into the so-called “green-energy” industry, almost 15,000 windmills — maybe more — have been left to rot across America. And while the turbines have been abandoned over a period of decades, the growing amount of “green junk” littering the American landscape is back in the headlines again this week.
Across the country, subsidized wind farms are meeting increasing resistance — and not just from taxpayers and electricity consumers forced to foot the bill. "If wind power made sense, why would it need a government subsidy in the first place?” wondered Heritage Foundation policy analyst Ben Lieberman, who deals with energy and environmental issues. “It's a bubble which bursts as soon as the government subsidies end."
It turns out that wind power is expensive and inefficient even in the best wind-farm locations in the world. And regular power plants always need to be on standby in case there is no wind, not enough wind, or even too much of it — a fairly regular occurrence.
That is why, when the tax subsidies run out, the towering metallic structures are often simply abandoned. In their wake: a scarred landscape and dead wildlife — the very same ills offered as justifications by administration officials for preventing oil exploration.
The Wall Street Journal virtually called the Obama administration’s efforts to create “green” jobs a joke, decrying the President’s efforts to jump-start the economy with them as mere “conjuring” and suggesting instead that he drop his “ideological illusions” and face reality.
The reality is that no matter how much of other people’s money the President throws at the “clean” renewable alternative energy sector to force it to generate jobs, his efforts have been an abysmal failure. The name Solyndra is now synonymous with “loser” and the Washington Post reported last month that Obama’s green loan program of $38 billion has created just 3,500 jobs in two years instead of the 65,000 anticipated by the White House.
Instead, real jobs are being created in the real energy industry — in Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. In the first six months of this year, 18,000 new jobs were created in the natural gas business in Pennsylvania, with more than 200,000 jobs existing there today where none existed 10 years ago. Overall, the Journal reported that “oil and gas production … now employs some 440,000 workers, an 80% increase, or 200,000 jobs, since 2003. Oil and gas jobs account for more than one in five of all net new private jobs in that period.”
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.