2020’s Will Be Great

December 31, 2020

Optimism is often seen as naive, but I choose to believe that, properly exercised, it is a force multiplier.

Above, Reuters has a clear eyed view of the unprecedented moment we are at in the energy transition.
Below, Keith Schneider, the Sage of Benzonia, Michigan, looks forward.

Keith Schneider in ModeShift:

There really is not a way to hit on a word, or even an assembly of words, to adequately encompass the tough, dangerous, and ultimately exceptional year that 2020 has been.

Next year will be better. And the 2020s promise to be a decade of real progess. During this decade technology and ecology will marry more firmly than ever to produce pathbreaking achievements in sectors that really matter— energy, transportation, agriculture, climate, resources, and manufacturing.

With Trump gone, a new era has opened. The United States is again seriously considering how to construct a true green new deal — the melding of ecological values to investment and industrial practices to build a fairer and more just economy.

The foundation is in place. Black fuels, for instance, are in retreat as investors move capital to less expensive and cleaner alternative energy sources. In 2018, according to an assessment by Tim Buckley, an Australian analyst, 31 significant financial institutions abandoned coal. In 2019 the list was longer, with 46 major investment banks and institutions announcing coal exits. In 2020 so far there have been 68 such actions around the world.

Oil companies evaporated as sound investment options. Oil and natural gas prices are near historic lows. Drilling activity has diminished. A proposal to build a monumental gas storage hub in West Virginia is slipping closer to irrelevancy.

On the other side of the energy sector, carbon-free power is seizing command of the electrical sector. Electric vehicles are poised to lead the market by the end of the decade, if not sooner. Responding to climate disruption is a top tier political issue, and not just in the United States. Energy, water, soil, and community-conserving food production practices are being adopted as central tenets of mainstream agriculture.

American companies’ commitment to ingenuity, science, and manufacturing prowess just delivered two COVID-19 vaccines in under a year. Amazon is remaking how the world operates with the same era-changing influence that steam engines had on sailing schooners. The same is true for Tesla and Google. Look at Linkedin’s news page. It’s a scrolling compendium of trends that convey hope for the world.

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UPDATE: There is more on this story that you can read here.

You can read my own account of meeting Moore, long before he was “the”
Michael Moore, here.

Joanne Doroshow on Facebook:

I was not going to step into this mess, which many people have contacted me about over the last couple weeks. But because of my anti-nuclear background and my familiarity with all that went down in Midland, this one particularly pained me. So I am breaking my silence. I was involved in the research and fact checking process for various of Michael’s film, TV and book projects from the 1990s through 2007. During that period, Michael cared enough about the accuracy of his films that he complied when others told him he had to make changes to reflect facts and reality. I personally factually annotated some of these films and put entire “fact check bibles” on film websites. I dealt with studio lawyers doing fact and libel checks until they were satisfied. Believe me, by the time these projects saw the light of day, they were airtight. The director of this new film was someone we never let near the fact checking process. In my experience, he seemed attracted to conspiracy theories and information that was not factual, and I believed his influence on Michael could be damaging to his films. I cannot speak to what happened to Michael’s films after I stopped helping to ensure their accuracy but it is excruciating to see what has happened now – although it is not surprising. People disturbed by inaccuracies in this film are not “haters.” They, like I, are pained by them. The factual errors should never have happened.

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Planet of the Stupid

April 25, 2020

Exhautive, devastating and much-deserved point by point takedown of Michael Moore’s sadly bogus energy doc. This is the the one I’ll be linking people to, for now.

The fact-checked response is, a film that is not just stupid, but lazy.
“Not only is the documentary bad, it’s old bad.

“All of the stuff in this documentary is ancient”

Ketan Joshi:

The film ‘Planet of the Humans’ opens with the director, Jeff Gibbs, operating a fossil-fuelled combustion engine vehicle, on a road full of combustion engine vehicles, followed up with some footage taken from the International Space Station (fossil fuelled rockets put that in space).

This is not a documentary about the environmental damage that had to occur for Gibbs to go on his drive – it is not mentioned. Nor is it about the harm from fossil fuels.

It is about why renewable energy is bad. I used to work in the renewable energy industry – first, with wind farms and later in research, government agencies and advocacy groups. So it was hard to resist both watching and reviewing this one, considering it launched on ‘Earth Day’, and it has been widely promoted.

Not only is the documentary bad, it’s old bad. Please join me on this journey back in time. It won’t be fun, but I’m glad you’re here with me.

All of the stuff in this documentary is ancient

It is clear that Gibbs has been trying to make this documentary for a long, long time.

“He is currently working on a film about the state of the planet and the fate of humanity”, read his bio, in 2012. It is clear, digging into these early posts, that he very passionately loathes the burning of trees to generate energy – a wildly controversial and genuinely problematic thing, for sure.

But as early as 2010, Gibbs was posting HuffPost blogs extending that into wind and solar, too.

This one, for instance, repeats a bog-standard list of anti-wind and anti-solar memes that, back in 2010, were fashionable among climate deniers. The ‘wind and solar are too intermittent’ meme, for instance, is a great hallmark of that era. “How much variable energy can a grid accept? Around ten percent, twenty percent tops it appears”, he wrote back then. I’d include examples of grids with higher percentages operating without a hitch today, but it feels almost cruel.

The extreme oldness of this documentary stands out. In one instance, he tours a solar farm in Lansing, Michigan, in which a bemused official states that a large farm can only power ten homes in a year.

It is the Cedar Street Solar Array, a 150 panel 824 kilowatt (that’s small) farm in downtown Lansing. Guess when that bad boy was built? 2008. Twelve years ago – an absolute eternity, in solar development years.

As PV Magazine writes, “The film reports on a solar installation in Michigan with PV panels rated at “just under 8 percent” conversion efficiency. It’s difficult to identify the brand of panel in the film (Abound?) — but that efficiency is from another solar era”. Efficiency gains in solar have been so rapid that by leaving the dates off his footage he is very actively deceiving the audience. The site generates 64-64 MWh a year, according to the owner – a more recent installation in the same area generates around 436. The footage really is from another era. It’s like doing a documentary on the uselessness of mobile phones but only examining the Motorola Ultrasleek.

Later, they visit the Solar Energy Generating System (SEGS) solar farm, only to feign sadness and shock when they discover it’s been removed, leaving a dusty field of sand. In the desert. “Then Ozzie and I discovered that the giant solar arrays had been razed to the ground”, he moans. “It suddenly dawned on me what we were looking at. A solar dead zone”.

Which is a weird one, because the latest 2020 satellite imagery shows a site full of solar arrays, and a total absence of any “dead zones”. The damn thing is generating electricity.

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“So what’s a Republican, like me, doing at a wind farm?” asks GOP Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner in the ad above.
Damn good question, given the hostility to renewable energy that leading GOP funders and interest groups have been showing in recent years, and the current political campaign.

NYTimes:

In Senate races in the general election, the analysis found, energy and the environment are the third-most mentioned issue in political advertisements, behind health care and jobs.

The explosion of energy and environmental ads also suggests the prominent role that the issues could play in the 2016 presidential race, especially as megadonors — such as Thomas F. Steyer, a California billionaire and environmental activist on the left, and Charles G. and David H. Koch, billionaire brothers on the right — take sides. Leaders of major environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters said they had collectively spent record amounts of money in this election cycle.

“Candidates are using energy and environment as a sledgehammer to win a race,” said Elizabeth Wilner, the senior vice president for politics at Kantar Media/CMAG.

Groups representing the energy industry and environmental advocacy have typically been the lead players in presenting policy positions in ads, but this year the candidates themselves and party political committees are also taking on that role.

“What’s important about what’s going on right now is the extent to which the Democrats feel confident playing offense on environmental and energy issues, and the extent to which polling shows that they are scoring when they do that,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster.

What pollsters know, and what candidates are finding out, is that climate and energy issues work to move voters.  In Mr. Gardner’s home state of Colorado, renewable energy is popular, and concerns about climate and environment are high – leading Democratic interest groups to seek to tie Mr. Gardner’s record of climate denial to his stands on other social issues where he seems to be out of step with his constituency.

The election results will tell us something about how well these kinds of attacks, and responses, have worked – but the swing in voter attitudes on climate change is unlikely to stop, especially given the possibility that 2014 could be the hottest year ever in the NASA surface temperature record, and if a developing El Nino warming event in the Pacific plays out in coming months, 2015 could be hotter still.