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.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on world leaders Monday to collaborate in financing a multibillion-dollar fund to combat global warming. Speaking at a conference in Bangladesh’s capital, Mr. Ban said global efforts must be taken to establish a $100 billion Green Climate Fund dedicated to taming the "damaging" effects of climate change, and that the global economic crisis should not hinder such efforts.
"The aim of this conference is to get the nations who are disproportionately affected by climate change, the most vulnerable nations, to come together and speak with one voice," asserted Bangladesh's environment secretary Mesbah ul Alam. "Climate change is real and it is affecting us now — we live with floods, with climate refugees, with rising salinity in our coastal areas and with the impact of rising sea levels."
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has taken the somewhat unusual step of declaring that the Earth most certainly will not be destroyed by a massive solar flare. But for adherents of various versions of “end of the world” theories related to the ancient Mayan calendar, it is unlikely NASA’s efforts will do any good.
NASA’s scientists have been trying to answer the burgeoning number of Internet rumors and pseudoscientific claims that have arisen periodically for years regarding claims that the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world on December 21, 2012. In 2009, NASA responded to the release of Columbia Pictures’ movie 2012 with an extended “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) entitled “2012: Beginning of the End or Why the World Won’t End?” which dealt with many of the claims that had been floating around at that point. As observed at that time, there are parallels between the irrational fears associated with the “Year 2000” (Y2K) computer "bug" and 2012 doom and gloom:
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.
After three years of trying to solve their self-imposed debt crisis, the Jefferson County, Alabama, commissioners threw in the towel on Wednesday and declared bankruptcy. The bankruptcy, involving over $4 billion in debts owed by the county, will be costly to the banks who loaned the money, the private investors who participated in the bond offerings, the guarantors of the debt, and most especially, the taxpayers of Montgomery.
It’s already proven costly to Charles LeCroy, the JP Morgan broker who persuaded the county to refinance its debt in 2004, who was indicted by the SEC in 2009 for fraud in a separate case. And for Larry Langford, a county commissioner at the time, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail for fraud in the present case.
The seeds for the bankruptcy were planted back in 1994 when the Environmental Protection Agency demanded that Jefferson County build a new sewer system. The county complied and raised money through a bond offering that generated $3 billion which was used to build the new plant. LeCroy was the original broker involved in the deal and when he moved to JPMorgan, he used his position to persuade the county to refinance the bonds at lower cost, using something called derivatives. The refinance would lower the county’s interest payments and generate some cash for the county as well. It was that offer and acceptance of a deal that looked awfully good — too good — that set the stage for the bankruptcy filing on Wednesday.
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.
The recent release of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) study, which showed a worldwide temperature increase of about 1°C since 1950, was heralded by many as proof of global warming. Some skeptics, however, noted that the BEST data also showed that temperatures had remained unchanged for the past decade, suggesting that any warming trend had ended around the turn of the century.
Meteorologist and climate-science blogger Anthony Watts has gone those skeptics one better. Having analyzed U.S. temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center, Watts declared in a column for the Daily Caller: “The trend for the continental United States for the past 10 years is not flat, but cooling.”
Watts broke the data down by winter, summer, and annual temperatures in each of nine designated regions in the continental United States. For wintertime he found that “every region … has a negative temperature trend for the last decade,” ranging from -1.3°F in the Western Region (California and Nevada) to -8.74°F in the East North Central Region (Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan).
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.