This bailer, on display at an event near Emmetsburg, Iowa in 2010, is designed to harvest corn stover for biofuel use. (Photo by Joanna Schroeder via Creative Commons)
Cross-posted from the Great Plains Institute with permission
By Brendan Jordan
A new academic paper on biofuels was released this week, and some media outlets have reached sweeping conclusions. “Fuels from corn waste not better than gas,” claimed the Associated Press. The Daily Caller one-upped them with “Study: Corn Ethanol is Nature’s Enemy.”
A careful reading of the paper doesn’t in any way support these conclusions.
Bill White is a senior advisor at Americans for a Clean Energy Grid and the president of Norton White Energy.
By Bill White
Over 33 million Americans tuned in to watch President Obama reiterate his commitment to an “all of the above” climate change strategy in his State of the Union address. As advocates clamored to promote solutions from energy efficiency to carbon capture and storage, viewers in the Lone Star State were silent, even though they may have already uncovered the best climate protection investment of all: high voltage transmission.
Thanks to a series of far-sighted policy decisions to open the way for transmission investments, Texas recently completed 3,600 miles of new high-voltage lines connecting wind in the panhandle and west Texas to cities like Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin. Texas now accounts for 20 percent of installed U.S. wind capacity – more than all but five countries worldwide and double the amount in California (in second place). The Electric Reliability Council of Texas predicts the new lines will spur another 30 percent increase in the state’s wind capacity, to 16,000 MW, by 2016. That’s powerful evidence for how transmission paves the way for explosive renewable energy growth – exactly what we’ll need to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and avoid catastrophic climate change.
Jeff Biggers is the author of “Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland,” among other books.
By Jeff Biggers
As Illinois finds itself once again in the throes of a short-term coal rush with devastating health and environmental consequences, it’s time to finally turn the page on the past and transition to a future with more sustainable economic development.
It’s time for Illinois to pay its debt to downstate coal mining communities.
Last month, a coal miner friend in Eastern Kentucky reminded me how his state was finally entering a new era, and getting past the hand-wringing, the finger-pointing, and the false arguments on coal mining. Led by bipartisan politicians, Eastern Kentuckians gathered on Dec. 9 for a high-level government-sponsored summit on economic diversification.
Michael Vickerman is program and policy director of RENEW Wisconsin.
By Michael Vickerman
As this latest blast of arctic air slides away from the Upper Midwest, now is a good time to take stock of the conventional wisdom that grips natural gas markets today.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) last week reported another large weekly withdrawal of natural gas–230 billion cubic feet (bcf)–from underground inventories. While this is a big number, it is well short of the record-setting 287 bcf withdrawal reported two weeks earlier. This week’s report may eclipse that number.
The heavy demand for natural gas this winter leaves inventories at their lowest levels for this time of year since 2004. Even if temperatures returned to normal this February and March, we could finish the heating season with only one-third the volume in storage back in early November.
In fact, we’re on track to pull 26 trillion cubic feet (tcf) out of storage this heating season, a volume likely to exceed all the natural gas extracted from domestic sources last year (an estimated 25.5 trillion cubic feet).
Remember the extraordinary surplus that accumulated in the winter of 2011-2012? It’s ancient history now. Without a moment’s thought to what was happening, we managed to Hoover through every last cubic foot of ballooning inventories that in 2012 sent gas prices plunging down to levels not seen since 2002. One month into 2014, the pendulum has clearly swung over to the deficit side of the supply-demand equilibrium.
Marc Lopata, left, is president of Microgrid Solar in St. Louis, and Jeramy Shays is Policy Manager at the American Council On Renewable Energy.
By Marc Lopata and Jeramy Shays
Reliable, affordable electricity is the lifeblood of our country and economy. This has been fact since Thomas Edison demonstrated the first commercially viable incandescent light bulb in 1879. Electricity fuels our economy and greatly enriches the quality of our lives.
For much of the last hundred years, electricity came from massive centralized power plants. These plants routinely emit harmful pollutants into the air we breathe and the water we drink. They harm our quality of life while decreasing property values in their surrounding communities. If those power plants use coal as a fuel, there are also significant “externalities” associated with the common mining operations in coal production, such as environmental degradation, water pollution, and loss of animal populations.
Jeff Deyette is a senior energy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Cross-posted from The Equation
By Jeff Deyette
Members of the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee heard testimony this week on two bills that would roll back Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. Backed by fossil-fuel funded special interest groups and their political allies, these proposals would undermine Ohio’s emerging clean energy industries and make the state even more dependent on coal and natural gas.
It is no coincidence that the primary sponsors of these bills are both members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Last year, the Washington Post, UCS, and others exposed ALEC’s scheme to deploy model legislation written by the Heartland Institute, and backed by deeply flawed and soundly refuted analyses from the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, that would repeal renewable electricity standards (RES) now in place in 29 states.
ALEC, the Heartland Institute, and the Beacon Hill Institute all come to the table with dubious records of spreading disinformation to sow doubt about the scientific evidence on climate change and the consequences of tobacco use. Each has received funding from fossil fuel and tobacco interests.
So far, their campaign to roll back RES policies across the country has failed. Policymakers in states like Kansas and North Carolina exhibited sound judgment in rejecting the disinformation and repeal attempts. Likewise, Ohioans should be skeptical of claims about the Buckeye State’s clean energy policies coming from these groups, and the politicians who repeat them.
Will Reynolds is an environmental advocate from Springfield, Illinois.
By Will Reynolds
Governor Pat Quinn recently spoke at the annual dinner of the Illinois Environmental Council held in Chicago, where he was applauded as a longtime ally. His record as Governor reflects his commitment to clean energy and the environment. At least when he’s in Chicago.
When Quinn travels south, the tree-hugging Dr. Jekyll transforms into a dirty energy Mr. Hyde on issue after issue.
Environmentalists celebrated when Quinn vetoed a bill to provide rate increases for a coal-to-gas plant Leucadia Corp proposed in a heavily polluted area of southeastern Chicago.
But for southern Illinois, Quinn signed a bill to subsidize a similar coal-to-gas plant proposed near Mt. Vernon. When signing the bill Quinn claimed, “This important project will help revive the coal industry in southern Illinois.” The project eventually failed after plunging natural gas prices made it difficult for the company to find investors.
After taking opposite positions for the northern and southern ends of the state, what happened when a company asked for a mandatory rate increase to subsidize yet another coal gasification plant proposed in the central Illinois town of Taylorville? Quinn stayed publicly neutral.
Allison Clements is a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
As the Senate considers confirming Ron Binz as the next chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), rhetoric is heating up and putting the independent regulatory agency in a place it is uncharacteristically but increasingly finding itself these days – the spotlight.
In recent weeks, a few special interests have attempted to paint Binz, and FERC itself, as ploys in furthering the president’s “anti-coal” agenda. But the anti-coal charge doesn’t work when you think through the (still relatively unknown) role that FERC actually plays in energy regulation.
What is it FERC does, exactly?
FERC has several different jobs, none of which allow for favoring particular types of power generation over others. In addition to its authority over gas pipeline permitting and hydroelectric facility licensing, the Commission is charged with ensuring transmission grid reliability, protecting consumers from unreasonable costs, and creating a level playing field for all types of resources that provide transmission or generation services. Richard Caperton at Center for American Progress recently described some of these roles in a great blog post.
By Tom Sanzillo and David Schlissel
Peabody Energy, the nation’s largest coal company, promised 217 municipalities and 17 electric membership cooperatives in the Midwest a source of low-cost, stable electricity in return for bearing the financial risk of building the Prairie State coal-fired power plant. The plant, in Southern Illinois fully connected to the grid less than a year ago.
Construction costs came in at least one at least one billion dollars over budget. Struggling Midwestern communities are now being hit with high costs, which have to be passed along to residents and small businesses or absorbed by strapped city budgets. If cities start to run out of money, defaults on the $5 billion of bonds issued for the plant may well occur.