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Congressional Republicans attack another job-creating American company

Undaunted by their failure to catch so much as a single guppy, Republicans in Congress are paddling on with their fishing expedition through the Obama administration's clean-energy initiatives. They are nothing if not dutiful.

The latest faux scandal (what are we up to now? a dozen?) has to do with the Ivanpah solar power plant, currently under construction in the Mojave Desert in southeastern California.

Ivanpah solar electric generating system

Here's what we know about Ivanpah, a concentrated solar power (CSP) project being developed by BrightSource Energy. It started construction in October 2010, amid great fanfare from politicians like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. It is technically three separate, contiguous power plants, built in phases, with a total of 170,000 heliostat mirrors, spread across 3,600 acres, aiming sunlight at three solar power towers. It will have a gross capacity of around 392 megawatts and will be, when completed, the largest CSP installation in the world.

In April 2011, the project got a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy (DOE), allowing it to scale up its already substantial private funding from, among others, NRG Solar and Google. A little over a year later, according to DOE, the project is about one-third completed and is employing over 1,700 people on site. When it's finished it will "avoid 574,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to emissions of 110,000 vehicles" and "generate enough clean electricity to power approximately 87,000 homes annually."

In other words, DOE's investment has not failed. On the contrary, it's kind of awesome! Everything's going according to schedule. Jobs are being created. Barriers are being broken. If it proceeds according to plan, taxpayers won't shell out anything, California will get tons of clean energy and jobs, and the U.S. solar industry will have a domestic success story. Plus the thing is just gorgeous to look at.

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Fight poverty. End fossil fuel subsidies

As world leaders meet in Rio this week, they’ve promised to talk about how they can work together to eradicate poverty. Nothing could be more urgent.

Poverty is not a problem that will just go away. Over the past few decades, we’ve seen science and technology advance beyond anything our grandparents could ever have imagined. Medicine is getting better. Computers are getting faster. Phones are getting smarter. But one thing is getting worse -- the number of our fellow humans who struggle each day just to meet their most basic needs.

By the last count, a staggering 1.4 billion people around the globe are living in extreme poverty. And while the U.S. may be a wealthy nation, we aren’t immune to poverty. Too many of our friends and neighbors are fighting just to get by. One in five American children live in homes that struggle to put food on the table -- we’re talking about 16.2 million American kids [PDF] who can’t count on a meal every day. That’s not right.

And the shocking truth is that most of us in this country will live in poverty at some point during our lives. This is not somebody else’s problem.

We need our leaders to create long-term solutions that will wipe out hunger and poverty for good -- here in the U.S., and across the globe.

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Bus-ted: Romney takes anti-clean energy stance to six states with 418k green jobs

A version of this article originally appeared on Climate Progress.

Photo by Roger Barone.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney begins a five-day bus tour today. He’ll cross six different states, focusing on economic issues and the “ordinary concerns of the American people.”

As he has throughout the campaign, Romney will likely talk about why he doesn’t believe that clean energy is good for the country. In recent months, the Romney campaign has attacked American renewable energy companies, lied about the clean energy stimulus, and called American green jobs “illusory” -- even with 64,000 clean energy jobs in his home state of Massachusetts.

In fact, those jobs are far from illusory. In the six states that Romney plans to visit on his bus tour, there are nearly half a million green jobs across a diverse range of sectors like wind, solar, land conservation, green buildings, and waste-to-energy.

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Crowdsourced solar gets a nod — and a check — from the Department of Energy

Photo by Solar Mosaic.

I was once in a meeting with a guy who sold and installed solar panels. When he asked a woman sitting next to him if she'd thought about putting solar panels on her house, she replied that she'd love to, but she couldn't afford it. His response came with the casual immediacy of the salesman: "That's what you think."

The challenge to broad adoption of solar used to be a lack of awareness. Now, it's often a lack of capital. People understand that solar promises to save on utility costs over the long term, but many are discouraged by the investment cost of installation and the time it takes to recoup. One approach to offsetting those initial costs is the revolving loan fund, a pool of money often from a government body that provides initial capital the borrower can repay from the eventual savings. Once the loan is repaid, the fund invests in another similar project.

Oakland's Solar Mosaic takes a different tack. Its process, as Greg Hanscom outlined in April, is to create a one-time pool of investors who provide initial capital -- a strategy often compared to Kickstarter or Kiva. It's brilliant in its simple adherence to the tried-and-true: You invest, money is made (in the form of reduced electric bills), you are repaid. (Currently, the pool doesn't return any interest on the loans, but it's easy to imagine that it someday could.) The company is still in its beta stage, but it has already tapped over 400 investors for five installations.

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Clean energy investments climb, along with Big Oil’s blood pressure

Chinese workers with a solar panel

Last year, global investment in renewable energy passed the quarter-trillion-dollar mark, hitting $257 billion, according to the United Nations Environment Program.

In other words, investors spent about $38 for every human being on Earth. Someone needs to tell these job creators that they're ruining a lot of people's arguments about the green economy.

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Romney implies Colorado has no green jobs, even though the state has over 70,000

Green jobs? I don't see any green jobs here. (Photo by World Affairs Council of Philadelphia.)

A version of this article originally appeared on Climate Progress.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney campaigned in Craig, Colo., this morning, where he slammed the Obama administration for its energy policies. Romney implied in his speech that there are no clean energy jobs in Colorado, an assertion that is blatantly untrue:

And then of course there’s [Obama's] plan for energy. You see, he said he was going to create some 5 million green energy jobs. Have you seen those around here anywhere? No, as a matter of fact he’s gone after energy.

There are actually tens of thousands of clean energy jobs in Colorado. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics [PDF], the state had 72,452 jobs in “green goods and services” in 2010. In addition, the American Wind Energy Association also says that Colorado’s wind energy industry alone supported 4,000-5,000 jobs in 2011.

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Greens break silence, ask Obama to attend Earth Summit

Well, it’s not the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but it’s a start.

A coalition of U.S. environmental and social justice groups has asked President Obama to step up and attend the Earth Summit, a gathering of international bigwigs next month in Rio. It'll be an important opportunity to meet influential people from other countries, attend critical meetings, and lead high-level negotiations. Oh, and figure out how to build a green economy, Van Jones-style, around the globe.

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Could Romney’s scorn for wind power hurt him in the heartland?

Photo by Eric Tastad.

On Thursday, President Obama will visit TPI Composites, a wind manufacturer in Newton, Iowa (population, 15,254). There, he will reiterate his support for the Production Tax Credit (PTC), a federal support program that has helped drive wind's rapid expansion in the U.S. The PTC is now in peril, as Congress appears unlikely to renew it when it expires at the end of this year. The loss of the PTC would put tens of thousands of current jobs -- and almost 100,000 future jobs [PDF] -- at risk.

Newton's experience is illustrative, so let's recount a little history.

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Elm caretaker to be buried in coffin made from beloved elm

Frank Knight spent decades keeping Herbie, New England's tallest elm tree, alive. The tree lived for 217 years and under Knight's care survived 14 bouts of Dutch Elm diseases.

Two years ago, the tree had to come down. At the time, Knight was 101. As the Associated Press reports:

"His time has come," Knight told The Associated Press at the time. "And mine is about due, too."

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Buzzword decoder: Your election-year guide to environmental catchphrases

bees saying buzzwordsDon't expect the environment to be in the spotlight in political campaigns this year. The economy will be the star in 2012, with the culture wars singing backup.

Still, environmental issues are getting talked about, often obliquely as part of larger discussions about energy -- though the words don't always mean what you might think they mean. And the words politicians don't say can tell you as much as the words they do.

Here's a guide to energy and environmental buzzwords you'll be hearing, or not, this election year: