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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Listen to this. That is all.

At dockyards near the North Sea port of Rostock, Germany, Siemens is building a massive platform that will house equipment for managing power from wind farms far offshore. Credit: Courtesy of Siemens

It used to be that the United States was the bold technological leader of the world. The space program, jet engines, the microchip, satellite GPS,  the internet – all of these were important initiatives that could not have happened without major government involvement. All of them carried a certain amount of financial, or even physical, risks. All of them spun out a wide variety of benefits that have created whole new industries that the country could lead and dominate in.

Now we are faced with a Tea Party congress bent on leading us back to the 19th century, both technologically, and socially.  For now, it seems we have a faction that will opt to watch as other countries take the lead in the most important revolution of the century.

Great article in Technology Review gives plenty of space to pros and cons.

Along a rural road in the western German state of North Rhine–Westphalia lives a farmer named Norbert Leurs. An affable 36-year-old with callused hands, he has two young children and until recently pursued an unremarkable line of work: raising potatoes and pigs. But his newest businesses point to an extraordinary shift in the energy policies of Europe’s largest economy. In 2003, a small wind company erected a 70-meter turbine, one of some 22,000 in hundreds of wind farms dotting the German countryside, on a piece of Leurs’s potato patch. Leurs gets a 6 percent cut of the electricity sales, which comes to about $9,500 a year. He’s considering adding two or three more turbines, each twice as tall as the first.

The profits from those turbines are modest next to what he stands to make on solar panels. In 2005 Leurs learned that the government was requiring the local utility to pay high prices for rooftop solar power. He took out loans, and in stages over the next seven years, he covered his piggery, barn, and house with solar panels—never mind that the skies are often gray and his roofs aren’t all optimally oriented. From the resulting 690-kilowatt installation he now collects $280,000 a year, and he expects over $2 million in profits after he pays off his loans.

Despite the costs, Germany could greatly benefit from its grand experiment. In the past decade, the country has nurtured not only wind and solar power but less-­heralded energy technologies such as management software and efficient industrial processes. Taken together, these “green” technologies have created an export industry that’s worth $12 billion—and is poised for still more growth, according to Miranda Schreurs, director of the Environmental Policy Research Center at the Berlin Free University. Government policies could provide further incentives to develop and deploy new technologies. “That is know-how that you can sell,” Schreurs says. “The way for Germany to compete in the long run is to become the most energy-efficient and resource-efficient market, and to expand on an export market in the process.”

If Germany succeeds in making the transition, it could provide a workable blueprint for other industrial nations, many of which are also likely to face pressures to transform their energy consumption. “This Energiewende is being watched very closely. If it works in Germany, it will be a template for other countries,” says Graham Weale, chief economist at RWE, which is grappling with how to shut its nuclear power plants while keeping the lights on. “If it doesn’t, it will be very damaging to the German economy and that of Europe.”

Cooling towers at a nuclear power plant in Gundremmingen are visible behind homes whose owners are taking advantage of solar-power subsidies. The plant is marked for closure. Credit: David Talbot | Technology Review

To some German economists, the country’s energy policy is simply wrong-headed. Hans-Werner Sinn, president of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, is especially scathing. “The Energiewende is a turn into nowhere-land, because the green technologies are just not sufficient to provide a replacement for modern society’s energy needs,” he says. “It is wrong to shut down the atomic power plants, because this is a cheap source of energy, and wind and solar power are by no means able to provide a replacement. They are much more expensive, and the energy that comes out is of inferior quality. Energy-intensive industries will move out, and the competitiveness of the German manufacturing sector will be reduced or wages will be depressed.”

German politicians, of course, are betting that Sinn is wrong. And plenty of encouraging signs argue against his pessimism. The cost of solar panels has dropped sharply, which means that solar power may become more competitive. Battery costs may follow suit. If fossil fuels continue to become more expensive, renewable power sources will look more attractive. “Forty years is a long time, and one is continuously being surprised by favorable technological developments—for example, the way in which the price of solar cells is coming down,” Weale says. “From my point of view, I want to emphasize how challenging the Energiewende is. At the moment, it’s looking difficult. But with the right incentives, one can have good reason to believe that technological progress will be a lot faster than we currently expect.”

Do you ever wonder what if might feel like to be out on the edge, pushing the envelope – instead of cringing, dithering, and clinging to the past?
Care to bet against them?

Natonal Weather Service – Denver/Facebook:

It’s that time of year to haul out the chart showing the annual number of days having a high temperature of 90+ degrees in Denver. Through today, June 25th, we have had 14 days of 90+. How many will we get this year? Well, the last day of 90+ ever recorded in Denver was on October 1st, 1892, so we really won’t know till fall. Fall sounds good about now.
National Weather Service – Forecast Office:
At 3:34 PM MDT Monday, June 25th, the temperature at Denver International Airport reached 105 degrees.  This ties the ALL time record high temperature ever recorded in Denver (also reached on July 20, 2005 and August 8, 1878.  This reading breaks the all time JUNE record high temperature (previous 104 degrees) in Denver, and also marks four consecutive days of 100+ heat.
 

Starting today, you can help kickstart Climate Crocks to a whole new level – at kickstarter.com.

As of now, I am starting a 3 week fundraiser aimed at outfitting myself to join a scientific team on Washington’s Mt Baker, an active volcano in the Cascades Range.  I’ve been invited by one of the world’s foremost glacier experts, (and an advisor to this series..) Dr. Mauri Pelto, to come along and document his annual research foray onto a rapidly declining mountain glacier.

Unlike well-funded, professional climate deniers, I don’t have the Heartland Institute, The Koch Brothers, Oil, Fossil Fuel, and Tobacco Companies paying my way. If this is going to happen, I have to rely on my viewers to jump in and help out, as many have in the past.

Therefore, from now until midnight, Friday, July 13th, I’m running a fundraiser on kickstarter.com, a crowd sourcing site with a good track record, and inviting any and all friends of Climate Crocks – if you’ve ever thought about what you could do to help communicate the science on the issue of the millennium, here’s one of the most direct and efficient opportunities you could have.

My first goal is to get there and back with all my fingers and toes intact, so I’ll need to outfit myself with some decent mountain gear and the appropriate tools.  With any luck, this will be stuff I can use on future research expeditions as well. Then I have to have some resources for travel and accommodations.  I have therefore set a modest funding goal of 4000 dollars. Imagine what it would cost some giant organization to get where I’m going and do what I’m going to do – any gift you give is going to go a lot farther than it would almost anywhere else!

Under kickstarter rules, I have to raise ALL of the goal by the deadline, or none of the pledges will be collected. If I go OVER the goal, then that’s great, and more resource that will quickly be plowed into better cameras, better sound, and more videos.

Now – here’s the cool part – you can get some GREAT gifts for pitching in – Just look!!

$25 or more:

Disc 1 of the three DVD collections of the earliest Climate Crock videos!
Save ’em, swap em, collect ’em, show ’em on your local cable channel!
Bring ’em to your local tea party meeting and watch the fireworks!

Disc One:  –
•Party like its 1998
•2009 Arctic Ice Update
•”Creepy at the EPA!”
•”Birth of a Climate Crock”
•”The Temp Leads Carbon Crock!” (first edition)

$50 or more:

Three Disc Set of Climate Crock Classics:
Disc One, see above.

Disc Two
•”32,000 Scientists!”
•”It’s so Cold, there Can’t be Global Warming”
•”Climate Crock Sacks Hack Attack” Part 1 – the story of ‘Climate Gate’
•”Climate Crock Sacks Hack Attack” Part 2 •”In the 70s, Scientists Said there’d be an Ice Age”

Disc Three
•”How do We Know About Climate Change?”
•”Flogging the Scientists”
•Renewables Solution of the Month: Hybrid Cars
•Renewable Solution of the Month: Wind

$100 or more:

Long before there was Climate Denial Crock of the Week, there was Alex’s Restaurant, the first green cartoon strip, syndicated (briefly) in papers across the planet. I put the strip together in part inspired by James Hansen’s testimony to congress in 1988, and for a few years in the early 90s, it was syndicated by the giant King Features syndicate.  I like to think it was ahead of its time – but it still exists in book form.

These are true collector’s items, I’ve had book and comic collectors write to me over the years about finding them in out of the way book shops and garage sales. I have 75 mint condition copies, ready to go for anyone that wants a piece of Climate Crocks, not to mention comics, history.

This volume, published by Crossing Press in 1993, features the first year and a half or so. Comes with the DVD set mentioned above, as well.

“There are so many strips around with no heart…..Alex’s feels real and has a ring to it – the drawing is terrific!” -Pulitzer winner Jim Borgman

“The drawings are great, and the IDEAS are wonderful!”  – Pulitzer winner Mike Peters

Those that have been watching this series and reading this blog can judge for themselves what an opportunity like this could mean, and what I’ll bring home from this trek.  My commitment is to keep learning, keep growing, keep speaking and spreading the best information possible.

The fundraiser starts now. There are 18 days to go.

Duluth is a jewel of a city spread out on bluffs at the western tip of Lake Superior. Another one of those towns that doesn’t get much press, where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the inhabitants are happy to have you visit, just don’t come and muck up their good thing.

Last week’s not-so-freak rain event broke all records. It yet another of the surprises-that-should-not-be-surprising that are in store for us. As the graph above shows, extreme storms have been increasing in Minnesota for decades. (that’s true for the entire midwest)

Deniers, just keep repeating “dealing with climate change is too costly”.

Minnesota Public Radio:

“The most damaging flood in Duluth’s history”
(Minnesota Climate Working Group)

“This storm eclipsed a heavy rain event in August 1972 that caused serious damage in the Duluth area.”
(Minnesota Climate Working Group)

16.6 feet – New record flood level on the St, Louis River at Scanlon?

“The climate record from Duluth shows very few stormy periods that are analogous to what happened there this week.” 
(Excerpt from Dr. Mark Seeley’s Friday Weather Talk post)

A 4% increase in atmospheric moisture has been observed, consistent with a warming climate. The increased moisture in the atmosphere is driving the shift to heavier but less frequent rains –“when it rains, it pours.”In turn, this increases the risk of flooding.
Source: Trenberth et al.2007 climatenexus.org

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