Thursday, February 11, 2016

Solar Jobs Report

Think Progress has a nice summary piece about the growth of solar jobs in the United States. California leads the way, which is not surprise, but I am surprised that Massachusetts comes in second. I would have thought Texas, but I guess that a lot of the activity in Texas is around wind.

Solar employment numbers have gone up 20% a year for the last three years. That's fine, but it's a frustrating reminder that if the United States would just do the right thing about climate change and embrace solar then we could be having an employment boom in this country.

But, baby steps for now, I guess. The important thing is to elect a Democrat for President this year, along with as many Senators and Congress people that we can.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Obama's Oil Tax Proposal

John Cushman Jr. at Inside Climate News has a nice summary piece about Obama's proposal to place a $10 per barrel tax on oil.

Cushman's main thrust is that, while Republican control of Congress makes the passage of such a tax impossible, it is a wonderful thing to put the proposal out in public for discussion. Sounds right to me. It occurs to me that needs a new focus.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Integrating Renewable Energy into the Grid

A nice overview from Joe Romm at Think Progress about the techniques that are being used to integrate wind and solar electricity into the energy grid despite the notorious variability of wind and solar.

Spoiler alert: it's going really well.

One of the key developments is the availability of highly accurate forecasts of wind and cloud cover that utilities are successfully using to forecast when they need to fire up a traditional power plant to cover a shortfall. Apparently it's the unpredictability of renewable sources that's the problem, rather than their variability. If utilities can predict their availability then they can cope with the variability.

But I have to say that I was amused by the idea of using the batteries of parked electric cars as a form of energy storage for the grid. The idea is that parked cars, at night, could supply energy from their batteries to the grid on the expectation that early morning wind will recharge these car batteries before the cars are needed for the morning commute. That seems far-fetched to me. But points for thinking outside the box.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The New Budget Deal: Two Steps Forward...

A report from Think Progress about the climate implications of the budget deal between Paul Ryan and President Obama. Solar and wind tax credits are renewed (hurray!) but the oil export embargo is lifted making it more profitable to pump oil and sell it (boo). But if we've learned nothing else from the Republicans over the past twenty years, it should be the art of accepting a compromise that gives us something important and then going to work to renege on the part of the deal we don't like. Onward!

The story is here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

More Pressure to Investigate Exxon Disinformation Campaign

This time Kamala Harris, the attorney general of California, is being requested to start an investigation. Great idea, and one that would probably help with her campaign for the US Senate.

You can find the story here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Renewable Energy is Popular; also, Fighting Climate Change

Some good news about the popularity of fighting climate change, at least with everyone except conservative Republicans.

So all we have to do is translate popularity into votes, then elect Hillary and a bunch of Congressional Democrats, and we'll be all set.

The story is at Vox.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How to Do Renewable Energy in the Mojave Desert

The utopian view of our renewable energy future is all rooftop solar and backyard windmills. There's nothing wrong with rooftop solar, of course, I have my own solar panels and you should too. But moving the U.S. to the zero-carbon economy is going to take more than that. There are going to have to be big, ugly, industrial renewable energy facilities as well.

That brings us to the emerging clashes between environmentalists and renewable energy advocates. My friends have trouble understanding when I tell them that the fight against global warming is not really part of the environmental movement. I want wind farms off the coast of California; many environmentalists are as opposed to wind farms off the coast as they would be to oil derricks.

My friends have trouble understanding when I tell them that the fight against global warming is not really part of the environmental movement. But it's true, and as California now moves to achieve the goal of generating half our electricity from renewable energy, the difference between them is going to be more and more obvious.

Environmentalists, or at least one powerful faction of environmentalists, are concerned to protect nature and wilderness from development. To these kinds of environmentalists, wind turbines off the California coast are just as bad as oil derricks because both of them are an industrial intrusion into a pristine natural setting. We're seeing this fight heating up right now over the proposed Morro Bay wind farm.

We've seen the same kind of fights erupt over solar/wind developments in the Mojave Desert, but now the Obama administration has done something so mind-boggingly full of common sense that you have to just stand and gape in admiration.

Traditionally, if someone wants to build some energy project on Federal land, they have to go through the complicated and expensive process of applying for a permit before the Interior Department even begins to consider whether or not they think you should be allowed to build on the site that you want. Interior's consideration includes allowing environmentalists to weight in, of course.

But Obama told the Interior Department to just go ahead, without waiting for applications, and figure out which parts of the Mojave are most and least suitable for renewable energy developments. Interior has now completed their assessment and potential developers now know, ahead of time, which areas will meet with little or no resistance to development. Hurray for common sense!

And hurray for all of us because, even though the environmental movement and climate hawk movements are not the same thing, the fact is that most environmentalists are extremely concerned about global warming and most climate hawks also care about the environment. I'll sacrifice the California coastline and Mojave Desert both if that's what's required to stop global warming. But I don't want to do it if I don't have to. So kudos to the Obama administration for getting proactive about figuring out how to achieve both of those goals.

Here's the link to Climate Desk's article about the Department of Interior study.