Detroit Free Press:

LANSING — Michigan’s apple crop will be about 90% smaller than usual this year because of spring weather damage.

The Michigan Apple Committee said Thursday that growers, shippers and other industry insiders predict about 3 million bushels will be harvested. In a typical year, the state produces 20 million to 23 million bushels, pumping up to $900 million into the economy.

The committee says it’s the biggest apple crop loss since the 1940s.

Apple trees bloomed early because of an extraordinary heat wave in March. Then came a series of frosts and freezes that killed most of the blossoms. Some areas suffered more than others.

Gov. Rick Snyder has requested federal disaster assistance for Michigan’s fruit growers. The Legislature has passed a bill offering low-interest loans for farmers with ruined crops.

CBC Hamilton:

It’s worse than feared for apple farmers in Ontario.

Ontario Apple Growers association chair Brian Gilroy says that it looks like Ontario apple farmers have lost about 88 per cent of their crop this year.

“It’s devastating,” said Gilroy. “The estimates that we gave of there being 20 per cent of the crop left is probably optimistic. We’re looking at probably 12 per cent.”

Warm weather in February and March led to early blossoms that were, in April, burned by frost. A killer blow.

The Ontario Apple Growers surveyed apple farmers in the province. Of more than 220 farmers, only 37 reported back, but the numbers don’t look good.

“On my farm, there’s hardly a McIntosh there,” said Gilroy. ”There’s a large Spy block. You’ll walk by four or five apple trees without seeing anything. The real conundrum is what to do with such a spotty crop as that.”

Gilroy estimated that on his farm, a tree that might normally produce 12 to 15 bushels will only produce one this season.

That also means fewer people needed to pick apples. Gilroy said the damage this season could mean 600 fewer jobs in the Georgian Bay area alone where he farms apples.

Brenda Fletcher of Fletcher Fruit Farm in Binbrook said of the 23 varieties she usually sells, only four or five will produce enough to make it to the market.

Once she gets to the market on Ottawa Street, she’s not sure how long she can stay.

“We may lose our market for the winter,” Fletcher said. “We’re hoping to let our customers know we will be back next year. It was just the weather.”

Jerry Mitrovica of Harvard discusses some of the counter-intuitive details of sea level metrics.

The irrational exuberance around natural gas has been a cause for unsupportable predictions of 100 year supplies and energy revolutions in the US and elsewhere. Some folks have been concerned that natural gas will crowd out renewables in the future.

More and more evidence suggests that these ideas are not panning out – sobering if this information is even half right. I ran this by a few pretty smart and well informed people, who tell me it’s for the most part realistic

Automatic Earth:

..North America is collectively dreaming with regard to unconventional natural gas. While gas is undeniably there, the Energy Returned On Energy Invested (EROEI) is dramatically lower than for conventional supplies. The critical nature of EROEI has been widely ignored, but will ultimately determine what is and is not an energy source, and shale gas is going to fail the test.

As we pointed out in Get Ready for the North American Gas Shock in July 2011, the natural gas situation is not what it seems at all:

The shale gas bubble is a perfect example of the irrationality of markets, the power of perverse short-term incentives, the driving force of momentum-chasing, the dominance of perception over reality in determining prices, and the determination for a herd to stampede over a cliff all at once.

The perception of a gas glut has driven prices so low that none of the participants are making money (at least not by producing gas) or creating value. We see a familiar story of excessive debt, and the hollowing out of productive companies dead set on pursuing a mirage.

Many industry insiders know perfectly well that the prospects for recovering substantial amounts of gas are poor, and that the industry is structured as a ponzi scheme. Still, there has been money to be made in the short term by flipping land leases and building infrastructure to handle gas.

The hype is so extreme that those who fall for it contemplate, in all seriousness, North America becoming a natural gas exporting powerhouse, and a threat to Australian LNG producers, or to Russia’s Gazprom.

This concept, constructed from a mixture of greed and desperation (at the lack of conventional gas prospects), is entirely divorced from reality. (See here for Dimitri Orlovs excellent piece on why Gazprom has nothing to worry about.)

Nevertheless, euphoric hype is extremely catching. Given that prices are driven by perception, not by reality, hype has the power to change the dynamics of an industry, exaggerating boom and bust cycles in practice. The hype has resulted in the perception of glut – that North America is drowning in natural gas. The inconvenient fact that this peception is completely wrong does not alter its power in relation to prices.

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Clean technica:

Ah, FOX News and GOP politicians at the federal level will harp on clean energy subsidies all day… but won’t drop fossil fuel subsidies for anything (note: many local- and state-level Republicans are actually supporting clean energy industries). But the fact remains: fossil fuel subsidies are much larger than clean energy subsidies.

International Energy Agency figures show that government subsidies for fossil fuels are 12 times greater than those for renewable energy,” the Guardian notes.

Julian Scola of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) writes: “It makes me wonder — how do politicians and media can get away with talking  about removing subisidies from renewables without even mentioning the existence — let alone withdrawal — of much larger subsidies for much more established energy technologies? It is hard to understand.” [sic]

It is a wonder. Julian goes on to point out the difference between fossil fuel and wind power subsidies:

… public subsidies for wind power are dwarfed by those channelled to fossil fuels and nuclear. OECD figures show that coal, oil and gas in the UK were subsidised to the tune of £3.63 billion in 2010, while onshore and offshore wind received only £700 million in the year to April 2011 — that’s more than five times less than fossil fuels.

Moreover, International Energy Agency figures show that coal, oil and gas subsidies in 37 countries received a total of $409 billion in 2010, compared to $66 billion for renewables.

Shockingly different, eh?

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Politico:

In a surprisingly sweeping win for the Obama administration’s climate policies, a federal appeals court said Tuesday that the Environmental Protection Agency is “unambiguously correct” in the legal reasoning behind its regulation of greenhouse gases.

 The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit strenuously backed the EPA’s finding that the climate-altering emissions pose a danger to public health and welfare. It also upheld the agency’s early requirements for vehicles and new industrial plants while rejecting every challenge brought by a host of industry groups, states and other critics.In addition, the court approved the EPA’s attempts to narrow the number of companies that must comply with its greenhouse gas rules. And the three-judge panel rejected attacks on the EPA’s interpretation of climate science, including critics’ argument that the “Climategate” email scandal required the agency to reconsider its decisions.

The court even mocked the critics’ claim that the EPA had improperly “delegated” its scientific judgment to outside groups, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “This argument is little more than a semantic trick,” the judges wrote, adding that building on past research “is how science works. EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.”

While opponents can try to take the case to the Supreme Court, EPA supporters hailed the scope and tenor of the ruling as a victory that should have staying power.

Aol Energy:

A federal appeals court has put climate change front-and-center in the Presidential election.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit June 26 strongly upheld a series of Environmental Protection Agency decisions over the last three years on regulating greenhouse gases.

EPA in March proposed GHG limits for new generating plants and other large emitters, but top EPA officials said limits for existing plants won’t be proposed till after the rules for new plants are final.

That means the most politically sensitive rules won’t be issued till after the November election, leaving the controversy smack in the middle of the ongoing campaigns.

Industry analysts say the GHG rules proposed so far effectively bar any new coal plants in the US, at the same time that other EPA rules, especially the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, may be the last straw forcing many older coal plants to shut.

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Funded

June 27, 2012

When you have a history of epic swan dives, pratfalls,  and face plants such as those in my checkered career, you don’t automatically assume that everything will come off smoothly.

But here it is. About 30 hours after it began, the Kickstarter.com funding project to put Climate Denial Crock of the Week on a glacier this August is funded, and a go.

There are still 16 days to go in the fundraiser, but the rules make it clear that you must make the original funding goal, or you receive NONE of the pledges. Now that we’ve met that goal, the additional contributions still coming in just help firm up my bare bones funding proposal. What I’m saying is, don’t feel you have to stop now.  Any additions to the $4000 base proposal will definitely go to good use, and directly help improve the frequency and quality of these productions.

Deepest gratitude to all who pitched in, blogged, face booked, emailed and tweeted this project to their circles.  I’m looking forward to taking this series to a whole new level.

Not long ago I sat in a room with a number of environmental activists and high level managers for a large Michigan Utility.  We were cordial, we are friendly, we agree on lots of things, and agree to disagree on others. They are nice people. They’ve invited me into their headquarters, twice now, to talk about climate change.

I want them to succeed. Because the last thing Michigan needs is another large corporate citizen on the ropes. That’s why I’m so disappointed that they are opposing the new “25 by 25″ initiative, which would commit Michigan to 25 percent renewable energy, and put the nation’s premier manufacturing state on the leading edge of the renewable revolution.

Stephen Lacey at ClimateProgress: 

Moving into the election season, Michigan has become ground zero for the disinformation campaign against renewable energy.

In an effort to expand the state’s renewable energy targets,a coalition of environmental groups and local businesses is gathering signatures for a November ballot initiative that would increase Michigan’s renewable electricity standard to 25 percent by 2025.

But that’s not sitting well with large power companies and the Chamber of Commerce.

Yesterday, a group backed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and two of the state’s largest utilities rolled out a campaign to stop the ballot initiative before it truly begins.

The group’s messaging, which contradicts real-world experience with renewable energy deployment in Michigan and surrounding states, is typical for the heel-dragging, climate change-denying Chamber of Commerce. Even with the overwhelming positive economic evidence and the diverse range of businesses supporting an increase in renewable energy in the state, the Chamber and its utility allies say they’re ready to put up a big fight.

They’re not fighting with much evidence on their side.

Last week, 120 companies operating in Michigan signed a letter supporting the ballot initiative increasing the state’s renewable electricity standard. Proponents of the initiative say the increase in renewable energy would spur billions in economic activity and potentially create tens of thousands of jobs.

In February, Michigan’s Public Service Commission issued a report showing that the state’s current renewable electricity standard requiring 10% penetration by 2015 had spurred already $100 million in economic activity. The report also showed a remarkable trend seen throughout the rest of the country: the cost of wind, solar, and hydro “is cheaper than a new coal-fired generation” in the state.

That changing equation is making renewable energy far more cost-effective for ratepayers. In nearby Iowa and Minnesota — states with the second and fourth most wind energy respectively — a dramatic increase in wind installations has had a minimal impact on rates. In fact, a recent study in Iowa showed that the state’s 20% wind penetration was keeping rates below the national average — while also supporting more than 3,000 manufacturing jobs in the state.

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Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Cambridge, MA

With Almost No Accountability, BLM Failure Created Boom in Electric Power Industry Use of Artificially Cheap Coal from Montana and Wyoming; 

Taxpayers missed out on an estimated $28.9 billion in revenues over 30 years due to the failure of the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to get fair market value for U.S.-owned coal mined in the Powder River Basin, which currently produces 44 percent of the nation’s coal, according to a major new analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).   The report calls for a moratorium on additional Powder River Basin coal sales and a full-scale federal investigation of the deeply flawed BLM program.

A major “red flag” identified in the report:  Since 1991, only four out of 26 major Powder River Basin (PRB) coal sales have had more than one bidder, and the small handful that were “competitive” only had two bidders each.  IEEFA concludes that this failure resulted from of a lack of transparency under which BLM coal-leasing activities neither have been audited nor subjected to any other publicly available external review for almost 30 years. This lack of oversight is especially troubling as a scandal erupted three decades ago over the same industry give-away practices, and clear, transparent reforms were laid out in the wake of that scandal by Congress.

Issued just days ahead of another major BLM coal sale Thursday (June 28, 2012), the new IEEFA report, titled “The Great Giveaway: An analysis of The United States’ Long-Term Trend of Selling Federally Owned Coal for Less Than Fair Market Value” is available online at http://www.ieefa.org.

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