Proving that at least one Republican Senator can read polls.  And, Ok, he still gets a lot of it wrong.

Is he still wrong enough to get invited on to Fox and Friends?

National Journal:

The speech, which he delivered at the Oak Ridge facility, is in keeping with views Alexander has long espoused. But it’s in stark contrast to the energy and climate positions taken by his party’s leaders since 2010. After the tea party helped fuel the Republican takeover of the House, denying the science of climate change went from a fringe to a mainstream Republican view. Super PACs such as Americans for Prosperity, which has ties to the oil conglomerate Koch Industries, targeted Republicans who acknowledged climate change and supported renewable energy. During the 2012 presidential campaign, every Republican candidate but one, Jon Huntsman, questioned or denied the science concluding that carbon pollution causes global warming. And the Republican Party’s national platform, unveiled last August at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., mentions climate change only once—when it criticizes President Obama for making the issue a matter of national security.

Alexander’s speech highlights the widening schism on energy and climate change between moderates like himself and party leaders like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, often named as a likely 2016 presidential candidate. At a speech in March, Rubio said, “The people who are actually closed-minded in American politics are the people who love to preach about the certainty of science with regards to our climate but ignore the absolute fact that science has proven that life begins at conception.” Alexander himself has acknowledged the divide—last year, he stepped down after five years as the chairman of the Republican conference, criticizing the party’s increasing ideological partisanship.

Republican strategists are paying attention, and say that Alexander’s bold remarks could signal that the party is pulling away from its hard-right positions on energy of recent years.

“Lamar has always been one of the Republican Party’s most creative thinkers on energy issues,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres, who has worked for both Alexander and Rubio. “He’s never been one to follow somebody else’s talking points. He thinks for himself…. Tennnessee has a long record of electing and supporting creative thinkers who tend to become national leaders.”

Of the fact that Alexander’s energy message differs so profoundly from last year’s official party platform on the issues, Ayres said, “That’s where the party platform was. It’s very important to make a distinction between the party in 2012 and where it will be in 2016. It will not look like the same party.

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Tittabawassee River from the Tridge, downtown Midland, MI. May 16, 2013


May 29, 2013

Maybe in your town.

Certainly in my town.

Time was, in this part of the state, we’d get one flood a year. Usually March. Snows would melt with the first warm rain, and if the temps stayed balmy for more than a couple days, you’d get your snow melt and your flood.

Last few years, the tendency is for 3 or more flooding events over the course of winter-to-spring. And we are much better off than some of the plains states like Iowa.

If you think its all about Keystone, think again.  Alberta Tar Sands are already being processed in the Great Lakes region, and efforts are gathering to increase the flow exponentially, with an Enbridge pipeline as larger or larger than Keystone.

New York Times:

WINDSOR, Ontario — Assumption Park gives residents of this city lovely views of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit skyline. Lately they’ve been treated to another sight: a three-story pile of petroleum coke covering an entire city block on the other side of the Detroit River.

Detroit’s ever-growing black mountain is the unloved, unwanted and long overlooked byproduct of Canada’s oil sands boom.

And no one knows quite what to do about it, except Koch Carbon, which owns it.

The company is controlled by Charles and David Koch, wealthy industrialists who back a number of conservative and libertarian causes including activist groups that challenge the science behind climate change. The company sells the high-sulfur, high-carbon waste, usually overseas, where it is burned as fuel.

The coke comes from a refinery alongside the river owned by Marathon Petroleum, which has been there since 1930. But it began refining exports from the Canadian oil sands — and producing the waste that is sold to Koch — only in November.

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Recorded at Abbey Road.

I’ve been listening to this for a week. Works like 3 cups of coffee.

Coal 101

May 30, 2013

Nice new, informative animation from the Sierra Club on coal.

Co2 Scorecard:

Energy related CO2 emissions in the US fell by 205 million metric tons in 2012. CO2 Scorecard breaks it down and shows that nearly 75% of the decline is accounted for by demand reduction primarily due to the economy-wide energy efficiency and conservation measures in the transportation, residential and commercial sectors; the mild winter in the first quarter of 2012 also gave a helping hand.

Contrary to popular perception, the contribution of natural gas in the electric power sector was limited to around 26% of the total energy related CO2 reduction in 2012. Analysis of the changes in the electricity generation mix for each of the eight NERC regions in the US revealed that nearly 25-30% of the CO2 savings from coal-to-natural gas switch was offset when gas replaced zero carbon sources like hydro and nuclear. This effect was most prominent in the Western interconnection (WECC). Industries along with wind and solar had little measurable role in cutting CO2 emissions in 2012.


Ever since it was reported last year that U.S. CO2 emissions had dropped to a twenty-year low, energy analysts and bloggers have engaged in a friendly academic tussle over the cause of the drop.

The conventional wisdom in the popular press is that natural gas played the dominant role by pushing coal out of the market. The Energy Information Administration also supports thisin its analysis. But the folks at CO2 Scorecard have come to a different conclusion: the historic 2012 drop in emissions was driven more by economy-wide efficiency than an increase in natural gas generation.

This isn’t the first time CO2 Scorecard has challenged the assumption that natural gas is America’s CO2 savior. A paper released last fall analyzing emissions reductions from January to March of 2012 found that the unusually warm winter accounted for 43 percent of the drop, while the displacement of coal with natural gas only accounted for 21 percent.

Now that the full numbers for 2012 are out, analysts have a better window into what’s driving America’s changing emissions profile. Once again, the folks at CO2 Scorecard found that natural gas accounted for only one quarter of last year’s reductions.

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This may already be old news to people who read this blog, but here it is again.

The building sector is set to use far less energy in the next three decades than previously thought, according to the 2013 Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Driven primarily by efficiency regulations for lighting and HVAC equipment, individual homes and commercial buildings show steady declines in energy use through 2040, says the agency. Architecture 2030, which crunches the numbers each year, has released a chart comparing 2013 projections with prior ones, declaring, “The building sector is tracking ahead of the 2030 reduction targets.”

“When I looked at the numbers and looked across the board at all the statistics, I just literally fell off my chair,” says Ed Mazria, FAIA, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030, which is known for its 2030 Challenge to radically curtail fossil-fuel consumption in the built environment. “Looking at projections out to 2030, we’re adding about 60 billion square feet, and the numbers are still flat.” That represents a 22.6% increase in building floor area, says the organization—a rate that attempts to take a slow recession recovery into account for the near term without giving it undue influence in the long term. (The model assumes an average annual growth of 2.5% in gross domestic product through 2040—projecting slightly slower recession recovery through 2015 than some other federal agencies and slightly faster recovery than others.)

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I’ve said it before, I’ll keep saying it. No matter what you think about the need to decarbonize – the revolution is coming, because the technology is so compelling it simply is going to have its way.

Armchair Economics:

A picture is worth a thousand words. The graph above compares the price history of solar energy to conventional energy sources. This is what a disruptive technology looks like. While conventional energy prices remained pretty flat in inflation adjusted terms, the cost of solar is dropping,fast, and is likely to continue doing so as technology and manufacturing processes improve.

While solar currently accounts for less than 1% of the energy supply, it is an exponentially improving technology, both in terms of price (14%/year) and pace of construction (60%/year). Already it is approaching parity with other energy sources in the Western US. Assuming this trend continues for another 10 to 20 years, and there’s no reason not to, solar power will become 5 to 10 times more cost effective than it is today. This raises an interesting question. What happens if solar becomes an order of magnitude cheaper than other sources of power?

This is the nature of disruptive technology. It represents such an improvement that it renders existing industries obsolete. We saw waves of disruption take place as the Internet upended entire industries. Expect to see a lot of this in the coming years.


You can see where this is going, can’t you. As network prices surge, rooftop solar PV prices are falling even more dramatically in the other direction. As the Edison Electric Institute and leading US utilities have pointed out this year, customers now have the option of sourcing electricity from their own resources at a cheaper cost, and will be tempted to use the grid only as a backup. This, of course, is a major threat to their business model. It’s what AGL Energy, and Hawaii’s network operator have both described as the “death spiral.”

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It’s where deniers live. Cafeteria style reality. Watch the progression as they go from bashing, to sucking up, to Tesla Motors.

Business Insider:

DETROIT (Reuters) – Electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc. on Wednesday paid off its U.S. Department of Energy loan nine years earlier than required, using money raised last week in a stock and debt offering.

The automaker said on Wednesday that it wired $451.8 million to repay the full loan with interest.

“I would like to thank the Department of Energy and the members of Congress and their staffs that worked hard to create the (Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing) program, and particularly the American taxpayer from whom these funds originate,” Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said in a statement. “I hope we did you proud.”

Republicans have criticized the Obama administration‘s support of new-technology companies, including struggling automaker Fisker Automotive Inc, as well as electric battery maker A123 Systems and solar panel maker Solyndra. Both A123 and Solyndra filed for bankruptcy.

DOE officials heralded the Tesla payoff in a press release.

“When you’re talking about cutting-edge clean energy technologies, not every investment will succeed – but today’s repayment is the latest indication that the Energy Department’s portfolio of more than 30 loans is delivering big results for the American economy while costing far less than anticipated,” U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Monizsaid.

Moniz said more than 90 percent of the loan loss reserve Congress established remains intact, while losses represent about 2 percent of the overall $34 billion portfolio.