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Romney calls for an end to key wind energy credit

Photo by Eric Tastad.

Mitt Romney, a gentleman who is running for president of these United States, finally formalized his opposition to extending a key tax credit for the wind industry. The production tax credit, or PTC, provides incentives for growth in the wind industry and is due to expire at the end of the year. While his staff had previously suggested that the candidate opposed it, a spokesperson was direct yesterday: let it die. From The Des Moines Register:

Shawn McCoy, a spokesman for Romney’s Iowa campaign, told The Des Moines Register, “He will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits."

The statement makes very clear what the game is here: politics. "Stimulus boondoggles" and "level playing field" are code words, shorthand for "corruption" and "fossil fuels come first" that need no explanation from the Fox News set. Romney's argument isn't that the return on wind investments doesn't pay off or that he has a better strategy for increasing the use of renewable energy to achieve the goal of energy independence. It's talking points.

Read more: Politics, Wind Power

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Another reason to bug out: Drought puts electrical production at risk

In 2005, Americans used 410 billion gallons of water a day. In the spirit of the soon-to-commence-we've-heard London Olympics, that's enough to fill 620,808 Olympic-sized swimming pools. In the spirit of the 2000 Sydney Games, it's three times the amount of water in Sydney Harbor. (How much we use now is probably similar, but the U.S. Geological Survey's research on 2010 won't be ready until 2014.)

Half of the water we use goes to power generation. Michael Webber, associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas, finds that worrisome, given our recent water-access difficulties. (Yes, we're talking about the drought again. Get used to it.) He wrote an editorial for The New York Times titled, "Will Drought Cause the Next Blackout?"

During the 2008 drought in the Southeast, power plants were within days or weeks of shutting down because of limited water supplies. In Texas today, some cities are forbidding the use of municipal water for hydraulic fracturing. The multiyear drought in the West has lowered the snowpack and water levels behind dams, reducing their power output. The United States Energy Information Administration recently issued an alert that the drought was likely to exacerbate challenges to California’s electric power market this summer, with higher risks of reliability problems and scarcity-driven price increases.

Read more: Fossil Fuels, Wind Power

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Mitt Romney may have a few million reasons to oppose wind power

Some day, Massachusetts' Cape Wind project could generate 454 megawatts of power for the state, using 130 turbines located off the shore of Nantucket. It could tap into an innovative, undersea backbone -- supported by a partnership including Google -- running along the East Coast.

Some day. The project has been plagued by opposition and government intervention; most recently, a D.C. appeals court ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to revisit its assessment of the risk to aircraft. And if Mitt Romney -- who's become increasingly hostile to wind projects -- becomes president, he just might heed the wishes of one of his richest backers and let the project die.

Computer-generated view of Cape Wind from Nantucket. Click to embiggen.

Some of the strongest opposition to Cape Wind has come from grassroots community groups like Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. The Alliance opposes the project because of how it might impact the views of those who live along the shore. (The image above demonstrates that impact. If you enlarge it, you'll notice some white specks along the horizon.)

One of the reasons the Alliance has gotten so much attention is that one of its sponsors has a last name that acts as a media magnet: Koch. William Koch, brother to the more-famous Charles and David, has invested heavily in stopping Cape Wind. In part, it's because he's a local resident. And, in part, it's because he is rich because of the fossil fuel industry.

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Colorado Springs probably didn’t need to worry about demand for wind power

On June 4, the city of Colorado Springs' electrical utility signed a two-year contract for 108,000 megawatt-hours of wind power in a new effort partly aimed at gauging demand.

As of yesterday, 96.5 percent of that power has been claimed by customers.

From the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Large customers such as military bases and universities have tentatively agreed to take 102,730 megawatt-hours, and Utilities’ existing Green Power customers will take another 1,578 megawatt-hours of the pool, leaving 3,800 megawatt-hours up for grabs. ...

Council members said they were concerned that Utilities wouldn’t find enough customers willing to pay a premium for renewable energy, leaving other ratepayers to foot the bill, which would have increased bills by as much as 2 percent. The short-term contract with Xcel will be cost-neutral to average ratepayers, Romero said.

The city considered a 20-year contract for a large amount of power, but worried that a lack of demand would commit all of their costumers to higher rates over the long-term. Based on initial response, that concern seems to have been unfounded. A 20-year contract would have had additional benefits, as noted by the Sierra Club's Bryce Carter: locking in a cost that, while higher now, promises to become cheaper than fossil fuel-based power as extraction costs of the latter climb. If the federal production tax credit for wind is renewed, the utility will consider a longer contract next year.

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The best pun about wind energy, you’re welcome

This made me laugh way, way harder than it should.

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Yes, the economy could soon run on (mostly) renewable power

Along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a series of billboards sponsored by FORCE, a pro-coal lobby, make the argument for coal-based power by arguing that "wind dies" and "the sun sets." Coal wants you to think renewable energy is unstable, uneven.

Bad news, coal. A massive study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) modeled the impacts of a national energy grid with renewable power comprising between 30 and 90 percent of the mix -- including the requisite generation, transmission, and storage. In short:

The central conclusion of the analysis is that renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the United States.

That quote scratches the surface of the NREL's findings, which follow collaboration with 110 contributors from 35 organizations inside and outside the government. (The list of abbreviations used in the report itself runs two-and-a-half pages.) Another study released in 2010 found that Europe could similarly make a transition to a renewable-heavy energy infrastructure.

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Americans for Prosperity to protest pro-wind rally of ‘extremist’ kite-flying kids

A version of this article originally appeared on Climate Progress.

Beneath an innocent pastime lies a radical agenda to destroy America.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) now sees children flying kites as a major threat to society.

Earlier today, I opened my email box to find an uproarious AFP promotion for protests in Asbury Park and Ocean City, N.J., this Friday.

What are they so upset about?

An event so dastardly and maniacal, it has the potential to tear down everything we love about our freedoms as Americans. I almost couldn’t stomach it when I found out more.

Yes, it’s “extremist” kids flying kites in support of offshore wind energy.

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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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Meet renewable energy’s new ally

Let's get the boring stuff out of the way up front.

The renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) is an incentive provided to energy producers equal to 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour, adjusted annually for inflation. If you generate electricity using a renewable system -- geothermal, wind, solar, etc. -- you're eligible.

For now, anyway. The credit is expiring for most forms of energy creation at the end of 2013. For wind, it's up at the end of 2012.

Which has wind energy producers understandably nervous. But don't worry, wind energy producers! Karl Rove has your back!

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The dirt on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s environmental record

Scott Walker "Obey" SignPhoto by ky_olsen.

Wisconsin is a proud state, with a unique political legacy. Its track record of progressive independence and long-standing commitment to political comity make today's recall election an aberration, a rare example of a Wisconsin turned against itself -- and a rare national example of political turmoil.

The last recall election of a governor in the United States was California's in 2003, a campaign I worked on. A friend from those days, Clark Williams, is today in his home state of Wisconsin working to turn out voters to recall Walker. I asked him how the two elections compared. "Night and day," he responded, noting the "venom" that has polluted any rational conversation about the election. It's a common refrain: A recent poll found that one in three Wisconsinites had stopped talking about politics with someone because of their disagreement. There are reports of physical altercations between supporters of either side. This is not exactly the ebullient, cheese-loving Wisconsin we picture.

Neither are the decisions being made by the governor the ones many state residents expected. The fuse for the recall was lit with Gov. Walker's move to cut collective bargaining rights for the state's public sector unions, but that's not the only gripe state residents have with the governor.

The environmental community has its own (good) reasons for complaint. The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters is very engaged in the recall, with lawn signs opposing Walker throughout the state and a robust collection of "Failure Files" online outlining Walker's anti-environment policies. And I mean robust. They're worth a perusal.

For those pressed for time, or on the way to the polling booth, here's an overview we assembled: Scott Walker's Murky, Polluted Environmental Record.