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Backers want renewable energy incentives in stimulus bill

29 01 08 - 05:36

Backers want renewable energy incentives in stimulus bill

By Jonna Knappenberger

Washington - Energy policy is hot. Politicians and providers alike are pushing to develop energy policy as public awareness grows.

But there is a fight over the best way to provide energy, for the economy as well as the environment. The renewable energy industries - solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower - depend on tax credits from the federal government and contend they are being left out of legislation.

In December, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which sets standards for vehicle and appliance efficiency. The law also supports green building projects by establishing the Office of High Performing Green Buildings.

The law hardly seems to satisfy anyone completely. Those who felt left out of last year's law are now preparing to lobby for their proposals this year.

Backers want renewable energy incentives in stimulus bill

Washington - Energy policy is hot. Politicians and providers alike are pushing to develop energy policy as public awareness grows.

But there is a fight over the best way to provide energy, for the economy as well as the environment. The renewable energy industries - solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower - depend on tax credits from the federal government and contend they are being left out of legislation.

In December, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which sets standards for vehicle and appliance efficiency. The law also supports green building projects by establishing the Office of High Performing Green Buildings.

The law hardly seems to satisfy anyone completely. Those who felt left out of last year's law are now preparing to lobby for their proposals this year.

Bush urged Congress to approve cleaner coal technology and solar, wind and nuclear power. He also recommended that Congress allow oil drilling in the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge, long a topic of contention between environmentalists and the oil industry. None of those provisions made it into the law.

The most prominent option on the table now is a bill introduced by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and John Warner, R-Va., the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act.

The bill proposes a cap-and-trade system of limits on greenhouse gas emissions, which would limit industrial pollutants and allow companies to buy additional pollution rights.

It provides incentives for appliance efficiency, green building and hybrid technology but does not address funding for renewable energy companies. In early December, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee sent the bill to the Senate with a number of bipartisan cosponsors.

If the bill had included tax provisions, it would have gone to the Finance Committee and died, said a Lieberman aide who works on energy issues.

The aide said that, by attaching a price to carbon dioxide emissions, the bill provides reasons for private investors to invest in technologies that generate energy without emitting greenhouse gases. In effect, it gives a competitive advantage to companies that don't generate the gases.

Proceeds from the auction of emissions rights will support renewable energy technologies and other environmental projects.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Environment Committee are committed to getting the bill passed as soon as possible, Lieberman's aide said.

The oil industry acknowledges the need for all forms of energy sources. Karen Matusic, a spokeswoman for the American Petroleum Institute, said that, with global demand for energy on the rise, having multiple energy providers is not a bad option. In fact, a number of oil companies invest in wind, solar and other renewable energy.

However, Matusic says the oil industry maintains that legislation favoring one industry would not be a step in the right direction.

A 2005 bill gave tax credits to renewable energy industries. Most of these incentives will expire at the end of this year.

Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said Congress needs to address the expiring tax credits sooner rather than later because it takes many months to plan and construct renewable energy plants. With a deadline looming on the federal incentives, many companies will not begin projects that are necessarily long term.

It is unusual for such extensions to be granted in a stand-alone bill. More often, the measures are included in other legislation, and the renewable energy industries are pushing to be part of the economic stimulus package.

After declines in American and world markets, Bush called for immediate tax relief to stimulate the economy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced an agreement Thursday with Bush on a package that includes rebates to businesses and taxpayers.

"When you think about an economic stimulus package, do you want to just write them a check or do you want to give them a job?" Resch said.

Nonetheless, speed is really the industries' main point.

"It needs to get done early in this year," said Linda Church Ciocci, director of the National Hydropower Association. "Our industries need the certainty of knowing that it's finished in order for them to continue to grow."

The renewable industries argue that including the extensions in the economic stimulus bill would be smarter than stimulating the economy through tax cuts. Faced with stymied projects, homebuilders may lose work. Additionally, should Congress not help the renewable industries, "green-collar" jobs may be headed overseas, translating to a new type of dependency on foreign energy.

Green-collar jobs are construction or service jobs created to maintain environmentally friendly power plants and buildings.

As the energy bill came up for a vote in December, Reid said in a statement that the original bill would have extended incentives to renewable energy industries, which Republicans cut.

Kenneth P. Green, at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, said Republicans in Congress are generally less enamored with wind and solar energy than Democrats. Both support biofuel, made from vegetable oil, animal fat or recycled cooking grease. "Biofuel is popular because a lot of farm people want to grow it and everyone wants the farm vote," Green said.

The federal government provides subsidies to the biofuel industry. "Congressmen trumpet it as freedom from foreign oil. It's popular because it appeals to their constituencies," Green said.

Environmentalists side with the renewable energy industries. Following approval of the December bill, the Sierra Club's top legislative priority has been the tax credit extensions. Sierra Club spokesman Josh Dorner said, "There are a lot of projects that depend on the extensions, and we don't want to leave the industry in the lurch." Used tags: , ,

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Raging wildfires: Climate changes to blame for record season?

Saturday 16 July 2011 at 06:07 am Raging wildfires: Climate changes to blame for record season?

By Pete Spotts

The images are stark: soot-grimed firefighters steering bulldozers or wielding shovels to clear underbrush; curtains of orange flame tracing the contours of summits; aircraft dumping chemicals to slow a fire's progress.

Between Jan. 1 and early July of 2011, slightly more than 38,000 wildfires charred the landscape in the United States at a record pace. So far this year, wildfires have consumed just under 4.9 million acres of forest and grassland, a cumulative expanse the size of New Jersey.

That's 1 million more acres than fires consumed during the same period in 2006, which saw a record 9.9 million acres burned for the entire year.

Beyond the numbers, this year's fires may provide the first large-scale tests of the effectiveness of projects undertaken over the past decade to help forests survive wildfires, several specialists say.

The West's forests are adapted to deal with certain types of wildfires, researchers note. But since the mid-1980s, they add, some of these forests have experienced an increasing number of fires to which they are not well adapted.

Many researchers trace this shift in part to climate change. more

Hybrid Moves Into Housing

Sunday 22 May 2011 at 01:14 am Hybrid Moves Into Housing

By Brenda Krueger Huffman

(Chicago) – Recycling - Check. Conserving energy - Check. Hybrid car - Next car, check. Hybrid home system - What? Yes, it’s here. Hybrid has seamlessly, successfully moved into housing.

Safety Power, Inc. was initially started to provide homes with back up power. The company quickly grew to include renewable energy options and advising commercial and industrial clients with electrical conservation. Recently the company has come full circle and began marketing a new more capable type of renewable energy system for homes.

The award winning firm was voted one of the “Top 5 Sustainable Product Companies in Illinois” and continues to grow its residential client base in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Safety Power also serves larger firms on the national level.

Robert Brazzale, President of Safety Power, a master electrician turned entrepreneur, began Safety Power in 2007. An avid member of Local First Chicago, Rob believes in assisting sustaining local economies with green collar jobs and belongs to many green orientated groups in Chicago and around the country. more

Are electric car makers missing the trick?

Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 11:12 am Are electric car makers missing the trick?

by Martin Ott

I believe that electric car makers may be driving us all down the road that may result in the same sort of technology failures that we have seen in the past.
I'm not referring to the Sinclair scooter here but cast your mind back to the débâcle of Betamax v VHS home recording systems. The eventual winner was the technically inferior VHS but the battle was not resolved until innumerable consumers had paid out for worthless Betamax systems. Back in the 70's a similar conflict occurred over audio systems when America fell in love with the 8 track tape system that moved magnetic tape in a loop over the player head at a high speed resulting in a better sound. The world market finally dictated that the audio cassette was the way to go but not until millions of consumers had been lumbered with home and in-car systems that went down the technological cul de sac. more

Wind Turbine Manufacturer Acknowledges SGS´s Contribution towards Successful Project Completion

Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 10:57 am by Suresh Varma

The Theni Wind Farm project was developed by CLP India Pvt. Ltd., one of the major wind farm project developers in India. Located in the south western part of Tamilnadu, a southern state of the country, the facility consists of 60 Vestas V82 geared wind turbines. As recognition of its contribution towards the successful execution of this wind power project SGS received Vestas award.

Each turbine at the wind farm has a capacity of 1.65 MW IEC Class IIB machine with a blade diameter of 82 m. After a six-month long completion period, the Theni Wind Farm was officially opened in May, 2010.

Acting as contract engineer during project execution, SGS was responsible for ensuring that all activities were carried out at the site by the contractor in line with the final agreement. In doing so, SGS supervised the quality of construction works, the fulfillment of the technical parameters and kept the project within the scheduled time and contracted price. more

E.ON uses PPC's Broadband Powerline technology in smart grid project

Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 10:37 am E.ON uses PPC's Broadband Powerline technology in smart grid project

by Power Plus Communications

Mannheim - Power Plus Communications AG (PPC), the leading provider of Broadband Powerline Communication systems (BPL) for smart grids has taken on a key role within an E.ON smart grid project to facilitate an extension of Cisco's Connected Grid Solution.

E.ON Westfalen Weser AG is currently trialing smart grid technology within its network of 1.3 million inhabitants and PPC's proven medium voltage BPL solution has connected substations in the project using the existing power grid.

Using BPL technology, standard compliant and IP-based data transfer rates of 5-30 Mbit/s can easily be achieved via the medium voltage cable itself. Within E.ON’s smart grid project, PPC's medium voltage technology facilitated the extension of Cisco's Connected Grid Solution. The Cisco smart grid Router and Switches used in the project are highly compatible with BPL networks, providing a real cost advantage over fiber optic networks – which can be much more expensive where cables are not pre-existing.

By combining their technology at Westfalen Weser, PPC and Cisco have ensured the evolution of fast and efficient smart grids which are controlled on an IP basis. This increases the reliability of the power grid, fulfills regulations and drives down costs. At the same time this modern smart grids communications technology makes it possible to effectively integrate renewable energy into the grid. more

MIT Infrastructure "Life Cycle" Study is Progress Both Left & Right Can Embrace - Part 2, Fiscal Responsibility

Saturday 19 February 2011 at 09:02 am By Brenda Krueger Huffman

Chicago – Perhaps moving to the center is where we all need to be politically on the environment and effective spending compatibility. Not all green technology is crazy, and not all business profit or government expenditure is evil.

Even if you do not believe in man caused climate change, we can all agree leaving a cleaner planet and a more fiscally responsible government for the next generation is preferable to not doing so.

Perhaps green technology can be cost effective, and government fiscal responsibility may realistically include affordable green initiatives. Honest “life cycle analysis” and “life cycle cost analysis” study considerations should be a political compromise starting point both the left and the right can embrace. more

Global warming: Impact of receding snow and ice surprises scientists

Thursday 27 January 2011 at 11:05 am Global warming: Impact of receding snow and ice surprises scientists

By Pete Spotts

Washington - A long-term retreat in snow and ice cover in the Northern Hemisphere is weakening the ability of these seasonal cloaks of white to reflect sunlight back into space and cool global climate, according to a study published this week.

Indeed, over the past 30 years, the cooling effect from this so-called cryosphere – essentially areas covered by snow and ice at least part of the year – appears to have weakened at more than twice the pace projected by global climate models, the research team conducting the work estimates.

The study, which appeared online Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience, represents a first cut at trying to calculate from direct measurements the impact of climate change on the Northern Hemisphere's cryosphere. The study was conducted by a team of federal and university scientists who examined data gathered between 1979 and 2008. more

EPA presents plan on greenhouse gases

Wednesday 05 January 2011 at 10:38 pm By Mark Clayton

Washington - Setting the stage for a New Year battle royal between Congress and the White House over greenhouse gas emissions, the US Environmental Protection Agency Thursday laid out a timetable for the nation's largest carbon emitters – power plants and refineries – to begin curbing those pollutants.

Republicans have said all year that they plan to pull out all the stops to keep the EPA from phasing in greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations beginning in 2011, saying they would damage the energy industry, raise prices, and cost jobs.

Rep. Fred Upton (R) of Michigan, the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has said he opposes the regulations on greenhouse gases and indicated he would lead efforts to revoke EPA regulations in the next Congress. The new regulations, he says, will likely lead to the shut down of coal-fired power plants.

"To protect jobs and fortify our energy security, we should be working to bring more power online, not shutting plants down," Mr. Upton said in a statement. "We are woefully unprepared to meet our nation's growing energy demands, yet this administration's 'none of the above' energy policy will do nothing but cost jobs, make energy more expensive, and increase our dependence on foreign sources of energy."

Environmentalists lauded the EPA's move. more

Supreme Court takes global warming case that targets power companies

Monday 13 December 2010 at 03:21 am By Warren Richey,

Washington - The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine a major environmental lawsuit that seeks to force six electric power companies to cap and reduce their carbon-dioxide emissions to fight global warming.

The lawsuit - filed in 2004 by eight states, the City of New York, and three land trusts - targets what it claims are the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the United States and among the largest in the world.

It seeks a judicial order declaring that the fossil-fueled power plants are a "public nuisance." It also seeks a judicial order capping the plants' greenhouse gas emissions and requiring the plants to adopt a schedule of reduced emissions in future years. more

Outside Cancun climate conference, Caribbean Sea testifies to global warming

Monday 13 December 2010 at 03:09 am By Ezra Fieser,

Bayahibe, Dominican Republic - This summer's extreme heat may seem like a distant memory as winter approaches the United States.

But the summer that broke heat records across the Northern Hemisphere is still being felt below the surface of the Caribbean Sea: 2010 will likely be one of the most deadly years on record for coral reefs.

If diplomats attending the two-week global climate change talks that opened Monday in Cancun, Mexico, want more evidence of the negative and potentially devastating affects of warming temperatures, they need look no further than the blue sea outside their hotels. Researchers say that throughout the Caribbean coral reefs are "bleaching," a condition that occurs when they are under extreme stress due to warmer-than-normal sea temperatures. more