Business & Technology

Going with the wind

ITC to build $12B in wind farm power lines, JCSP study finds $50B savings from wind

Wind power is coming of age as the U.S. becomes the global wind leader and probably the biggest source of new jobs in the energy industry. ITC Holdings announced Monday plans to build a $10 to $12 billion power transmission network to move 12,000 megawatts of electricity from the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Iowa to the Chicago area. ITC called the plan, depicted above, the Green Power Express, saying it could: result in a reduction of up to 34 million metric tons of carbon emissions, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of about seven to nine 600 MW coal plants. ITC made its announcement the same day a major study, the Joint Coordinated System Plan, was released by the Midwest grid operator and other U.S. regional grid managers was released. It concluded that to increase wind power to 20 percent of electricity production by 2024 (requiring some 230 GW of wind) would require some 15,000 miles of new transmission costing $80 billion. The total cost of the wind would be some $1 trillion. The WSJ reports this as "New Grid for Renewable Energy Could Be Costly." But in fact the study found that "increasing wind's share to 20 percent of U.S. power production would yield annual net savings of $12 billion annually by 2024 based on wind's low production cost compared to the fossil plants the turbines would replace," as Energy Daily (sub. req'd) explained. Moreover, JCSP projects that the 20 percent scenario would save 3 billion tons of carbon over the next 16 years, which would generate in 2024 an annual value of some $40 billion a year at carbon prices comparable to that which the European Union has seen over the past year -- and several times that if the price of carbon to reaches levels needed to stabilize at 450 ppm. One reason I say wind power has come of age is because the announcement and the study don't come from your traditional pro-wind trade groups or think tanks. Far from it.

Deception by omission (of emissions)

FCC and FTC need to hold 'clean coal' ads accountable to reality

As viewers of PBS and the major network and cable channels know too well, the onslaught of "clean coal" advertisements over the past year has reached a tipping point. In the face of the actual news headlines, the relentless barrage of television daydreams about coal's zero carbon dioxide emissions and the coal industry's fanciful role in environmental protection and job security seem more like bad reruns from the era of "Father Knows Best" than any hope for a clean energy future. "Clean" coal? How about a little truth in advertising? Perhaps it's time for the Federal Trade Commission or Federal Communications Commission to hold the coal industry's public relations campaign to acceptable standards. Don't they watch the news? In the last month alone, viewers have had to juggle the reality of news reports on toxic coal ash spills in Tennessee and Alabama, coal waste-polluted watersheds in West Virginia and Illinois, mining accidents and coal dust explosions in Kentucky and Wisconsin, mountaintop removal and devastated communities throughout Appalachia, tragic strip mining on Native lands in Arizona, and several state initiatives to halt the construction of carbon dioxide and mercury emission-spewing coal-fired plants. And the state of Montana, like the U.S. Air Force, just shot down proposals for the coal-to-liquid boondoggle. The news ain't over.

Prospects for climate/energy action, III

The players: Business, labor, advocates, and the public

Big business It was once accurate to speak of the business lobby in the U.S. as a monolithic and implacable opponent of government action to restrict carbon or disturb the dominance of dirty energy and carbon-intensive manufacturing. That’s no longer quite true. A number of things have changed. For one thing, the country has been absolutely bled of heavy manufacturing, which has shifted the dynamic in at least three ways: manufacturing states are desperate for an infusion of new industry, and clean energy is virtually the only candidate; what jobs are left are mostly service jobs (think installing solar panels) …

14 Green Couples

It seems everyone’s going green these days — but some couples are doubly committed to the cause. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we take a look at 14 prominent pairs who share a certain planetary passion. Brad and Angie Yes, the ever-expanding footprint of this family might raise a few eco-eyebrows, but they make up for it by, oh: green-rebuilding New Orleans, funding a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia to the tune of $5 million, narrating a PBS series on green design, supporting Haiti’s Clean Streets Project, partnering with an eco-cosmetics company to raise funds for charity, and buying an organic …

What's in your package?

A $4.6 billion coal gift in stimulus package, record profits for FutureGen members

While Peabody Coal, one of the prime sponsors of the FutureGen boondoggle in Illinois, announced an eightfold increase in profits in their fourth quarter reports for 2008, the Senate Appropriations Committee just approved legislation for an additional $4.6 billion in handouts to the coal industry as part of the stimulus package, in the guise of "clean coal." There's a new detail on this "clean coal" money: $2 billion are no longer slated for zero emissions plants, but "near-zero emissions" power plants -- so much for all of those TV ads about zero emissions. What are near-zero emissions? Sorta like near-zero coal ash ponds and accidents, near-zero 10,000 black lung cases, near-zero workplace mining accidents, near-zero 1 million acres of strip mining and mountaintop removal, near-zero watershed contamination, and near-zero coal truck accidents? This is on top of $2.8 billion the coal industry picked up in the last bailout. In the meantime, check out the dream team sponsors of FutureGen, the much ballyhooed poster child of the "clean coal" proponents who somehow like us to forget that before coal will ever be burned with near-zero mercury and carbon dioxide emissions, coal first needs to be extracted, processed, transported, and burned with ash piles. FutureGen Alliance Members include:

I volunteer to help test this policy

Shorter work week as stimulus

Economist Dean Baker (co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and one of the good guys in that dismal profession) takes up one of my pet obsessions: a shorter work week: One innovative policy that would provide a quick boost to the economy and jobs -- and lasting gains in reduced unemployment -- is a tax incentive for shorter workweeks or work years. ... How would this help the economy? The tax break would allow the employer to compensate workers for fewer hours up to some limit, say a maximum of $2,500 per worker. That would cut work hours but maintain staffing levels. As a result, workers would be getting just as much money as before the reduction in hours -- but putting in 10% fewer hours. If workers have the same amount of money, then demand in the economy will be the same. At the same time, firms would then need to hire more workers to meet this demand, since they would be getting 10% fewer hours from each worker. I once did a column in Fast Company on the ecological benefits of a shorter work week. This seems like one of those things that's substantively win-win but sociopolitically completely out of reach. People have weird attitudes about work.

Inside the mind of the green market

Musings from an L.A. green-biz conference

This article is part of a collaboration with Planetizen, the web's leading resource for the urban planning, design, and development community. The green marketplace is the marketplace of the future. From Wal-Mart to Toyota to the neighborhood dry cleaner, it seems like every business is going out of its way to tell us how green it is. That could either be a great thing, because these businesses are actually using environmentally friendly practices, or it could be a bad thing, because they're just claiming to be green. Regardless of which it is, one thing is certain: they say they're green because that's what we want to hear.

Are the Big Three just ghostwriting WaPo editorials now?

The Washington Post editorial board, drifting ever farther right, covers its Auto Alliance position on CAFE with a shiny, self-righteous veneer of Krauthammerian posturing on gas taxes.

Clearing the decks for the next expansion

To make the most of this recession, we will need an economic expansion that restores our climate

Cross-posted at the NDN Blog. ----- As the economic recovery and investment package backed by the administration works its way through Congress, and more evidence about the nature of this recession surfaces, an interesting exercise is to think about how we want to emerge once it is over. In the midst of current economic turmoil, it may seem difficult to imagine the post-recovery world, let alone accurately predict it. Nonetheless, starting with an outcome and working backwards to a policy prescription is far preferable to policy based purely on the passions of the moment. Following are my thoughts on the world I would like to see in 2012 and the resulting implications for current policy.

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