Let's face it - being 'green' is the new cool. But sometimes an ulterior, industry-driven motive lurks behind the 'green halo' that we trust in so-called environmental organizations. This blog is dedicated to keeping individuals and organizations who claim to be for clean, renewable energy accountable.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Politics vs. Science – Who Wins?

*** Update: Here is a link to the actual letter - http://www.yeson7.net/images/Heeger-and-Kohn-Prop7.pdf.

I got word today that three Nobel laureates – world renowned leaders in renewable energy science – sent a joint letter to the ‘environmental’ groups opposed to Prop 7 to quit being so short-sighted and to quit misreading the law proposed by the measure. I can’t word it as well as they did, so I will post the letter in full below. So what’s the tally now? When it comes to renewable energy experts, you have Dr. Donald Aitken (founder of the RPS), S. David Freeman, (head of some of the biggest utilities in the country, including the Tennessee Valley Authority), 3 Nobel Laureates – basically, a whole bunch of politically disinterested, hands-on brainiacs in the field of renewable energy – against 5 of the 200 or so environmental groups in CA who also happen to take thousands from the utilities funding the no on 7 campaign. You decide.

To the PresidentOptisolar

We are writing to you today as supporters of California's Proposition 7, some elements of which you have criticized. As you know, this initiative would require all California utilities (public and private) to provide 40% renewablenenergy by 2020 to their customers, and 50% by 2025. The initiative also provides powerful new tools to reach these objectives. We hope that you will reconsider your criticisms of Proposition 7 in light of the following points, thereby helpingto create a common front in support of constructive legislation on energy/global warming.

1. Unfortunately, SB 411, which shared some of the same objectives as Prop. 7, but without additional tools for reaching the higher goals, has been eliminated from the California legislative process. Thus, at this time Prop. 7, which garnered many more than the necessary number of signatures, and whose current popular support is 63% for, 24% against and 13% undecided, is the only new California energy initiative which has a good chance of success.

2. The goals of Prop. 7 may seem overly ambitious, but after careful consideration we have concluded that it represents a realistic, necessary and fair share for the United States although it still fallsshort considerably of the targets of AB 32. Please also keep in mind that present U. S. per capita consumption exceeds the global average by about a factor of 5 and that its emission of greenhouse gasescontinues to grow apace.

3. Importantly, Prop. 7 does provide several powerful tools significantly stronger than in existing federal legislation, including a PURPA-like feed-in tariff, an improved process for calculating the “market price” by which renewable energy contracts are judged, and more leeway in judging whether renewable energy contracts are reasonable. Weexpect these new tools to substantially help additional renewable energy projects come online.

4. Although Prop. 7 decreases the cents per kilowatt-hour penalty for non-compliance with its targets, by removing the $25 million cap imposed by the Public Utilities Commission, its overall effect will be, in virtually all cases, an increased net penalty.

True, Prop. 7 contains an expedited permitting process that applies only to projects 30 megawatts and up. For existing smaller projects the normal, local permitting process is adequate. Contrary to some misconceptions, under Proposition 7 projects under 30 megawatt continues to contribute to the requirements of the “RenewablePortfolio Standard”.
Surely Prop. 7 could have been formulated better in some regards. (But recall: “The best is the enemy of the good.” Voltaire) We hope you will agree that if made into law it would represent a very significant step forward, which merits your support. Adoption of Prop. 7 by the state of California would doubtless have an enormous impact also far beyond its borders.


Walter Kohn, Research Professor of Physics and Chemistry, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (1998)

Alan J. Heeger, Professor of Physics and Professor of Materials, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (2000)

Herbert Kroemer, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Nobel Laureate in Physics (2000)

Prof. Kohn is a theoretical physicist with a Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1998). He has been a member and/or Board member of the Federation of AmericanScientists, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Natural Resources DefenseCouncil for several decades. He is concerned and actively involved in thenational discussions concerning energy and global warming, including theproduction of a pair of films on solar energy (“The Power of the Sun”, translated into 9 languages). He has contributed to the recent international meeting in Balithrough its chair, German Chancellor Angela Merkl.

Prof. Heeger is a physicist and a Materials Scientist physicist with a Nobel Prizein Chemistry (2000). He created the technology of low cost “plastic” solar cellsusing the Bulk Heterojunction concept. Plastic solar cells promise to provide asignificant decrease in the cost of producing electricity from the sun. Heparticipated in the conference on Climate Change and Global Sustainabilitysponsored by Chancellor Angela Merkl (October 2007).

Prof. Kroemer is a theoretical physicist with a Nobel Prize in Physics (2000),awarded for developing semiconductor heterostructures used in high-speed andopto-electronics. They are the fundamental concept underlying allsemiconductor-based lasers and light-emitting diodes; the latter leading to arevolution in lighting technology. Heterostructures are also widely used inmodern high-speed communications electronics.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

NRDC - PG&E Love Fest

OK – this can no longer be called simple tit-for-tat. This is an out-and-out love fest between NRDC’s Ralph Cavanagh and Pacific Gas and Electric:

From a January, 2007 press release from PG&E:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Speaking today at the National Press Club, Peter A. Darbee, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG) urged federal policy makers to take a series of actions aimed at accelerating the nation’s efforts to advance clean energy solutions and address global warming.

Darbee delivered his remarks during a ceremony at which Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) honored PG&E for the company’s long and ongoing track record of environmental leadership -- only the third such presentation that the NRDC has made in the group’s history. The honors were presented to Darbee by Ralph Cavanagh, senior NRDC attorney, and Devra Wang, Director of NRDC’s California Energy Program.

NRDC's Cavanagh explains in the release why he's in Washington, DC bestowing accolades on PG&E:

“PG&E sets the bar on environmental leadership for all utilities,” said Cavanagh. “The company’s industry-leading energy efficiency programs and its bold leadership on climate change at the state and federal level provide an example of how the actions of one company can make a significant contribution to protecting the environment.”

Wow, Ralph! That sounds great! Except when you go on to read what PG&E’s energy goals are (from the same press release):

Clean Conventional Generation:
· Drive new efficiencies in natural gas fired generation.
· Facilitate development of new supplies and infrastructure to get supplies to the market.
· Fund large-scale clean coal development and demonstration projects.
· Establish rules for carbon dioxide capture, transport and storage.
· Evaluate the future role of nuclear power in the U.S. energy supply.

Uh-oh. Looks like someone forgot to give NRDC the memo about how there is no such thing as clean coal. Or the memo about how nuclear has long term devastating consequences for our environment. Or that PG&E doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for putting the health and safety of the communities around its plants high on their priority list.

But then, we already knew that NRDC’s staff loses sleep at night worrying about how the natural gas utilities would keep turning a profit.

So, what we learn today is that NRDC is for coal fired power plants, natural gas, and nuclear power! And they are being so helpful to PG&E and the American Gas Association, pushing their agendas to get America’s energy policy makers on board.

Sounds to me like NRDC’s energy priorities are well-intentioned, but fatally flawed. Or is that being too kind?

Don't Be a Sheep!

The prevelance of proof that the Big Utilities have their tentacles in every group opposed to Prop 7 has become something of a joke. Just check out PG&E's grant list, or the contributions that the CA Democratic and Republican parties have received by visiting the Secretary of State's site. Or - just look around this blog, where I've got links to all that stuff. Anyway, it's become such a joke that there's a new puppet show circulating on youtube about it. The video is funny but really addresses a deeper issue that should make us all pause and reflect. CA's environmental movement has been hijacked. Think about that. Proposition 7 would bust up the enviro-utility racket that's dominated environmental politics in CA for decades now. That's reason enough to vote for it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Just In: S. David Freeman Testifies for Prop 7

As this blog has detailed at great length, the No on Prop 7 opponents largely have political and financial interests in opposing Prop 7, with many of the “environmental” groups taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Big Utilities funding the No campaign and having overlapping board memberships.

Outside of the political hubbub, however, you find that scientists, lawyers, and industry experts support proposition 7. On Wednesday, S. David Freeman testified in support of Proposition 7 at the Joint Legislative informational hearing on the measure.

David Freeman is no lightweight.

“Known as the "Green Cowboy,” … President Carter appointed Freeman to chair the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority and he would later head other major electrical utilities, such as the Lower Colorado River Authority, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the New York Power Authority and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power."

Wow! This guy must know what he’s talking about! See this interview:

In his distinguished forty-year career of public service, Mr. Freeman has been "present at the creation," shaping our public awareness, helping design governmental institutions, and writing the laws that define the framework for U.S. environmental and energy policy. He has served as an advisor on energy and the environment to Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Carter. He was Chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority during the Carter administration, and has run many of the most important public power utilities in the country.

But here’s the punch line: Freeman is also credited with helping to get CA out of the 2001 energy crisis. So now you’ve got the Big Utilities and their allies in the NRDC, who caused the 2001 energy crisis, trying to scare voters into voting no on Proposition 7, versus the guy who actually got us OUT of the energy crisis telling us he’s voting for the measure.

Hmmmmmmmm. I’ll let you do with that bit of info what you may. In the mean time, for your reading pleasure, here is what S. David Freeman had to say to the committee on Wednesday:

Mr. Chairman, Honorable Members, ladies and gentlemen.

First, I want to be clear that my views are purely personal; and I do not speak for the Port of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles, the ICFT, or anyone else. I appear as an uncompensated individual.

I testify as a lawyer and engineer, with 30 years experience as a chief executive of large electric utilities, including those serving Sacramento and Los Angeles, where I advanced the use of renewable energy used efficiently.

I also testify as a former State of California energy official. And, more recently as an author who has explained how we can shift from fossil fuels and nuclear power to renewable energy, used efficiently; and why doing so rapidly is a survival issue for this high energy civilization in which we live.

I studied the text of Proposition 7 without any preconceived opinions. My considered judgment is that it clearly meshes with existing law in California to achieve two rather basic and very necessary goals.

It doubles the rate at which we shift from the fuels that poison our environment to renewable energy – from 1 % per year to 2 %. per year.

It also streamlines and shortens the approval process for projects that don’t pose serious threats to the environment so the utilities will have better opportunities to achieve the necessary goal of 50 % renewable energy by 2025.

It is important that the People of California know what the contents of this Proposition actually provides. If Proposition 7 is enacted, it will:

(1). Require that, by 2025, 50% of California’s electricity be generated from renewable resources as presently defined in existing law.

(2). Require annual additions of renewable resources at a rate of at least 2 percent per year.

(3). Apply these renewable energy standards to the municipal utilities, now exempt, that provided 25% of California’s electricity, and which today are the most intensive users of carbon-rich coal.

(4). Provide greater flexibility to the utilities and, and greater value to the consumers, in acquiring renewable energy by:

(a). Permitting direct negotiations without the delay of the current complicated RFP process;
(b). Requiring 20 year contracts so consumers will get the long-term benefits of renewable projects that are virtually inflation proof.

(c). Providing a realistic price that will enable most projects to be automatically approved.

(5). Strengthens the penalties on utilities for failing to meet the targets by removing the current ceiling on penalties; and, by law, forbidding that the fine be paid by consumers.

(6). Consolidates the permitting process, and shortens the time-frame at the Energy Commission – but only for projects that do not pose serious environmental concerns.

There is no longer a debate in California over whether we need to shift to renewables. Nor can anyone successfully say that 50% renewable by 2025 is too ambitious. Al Gore says we need to do 100% by 2018.

Mother Nature is the one that will really call the shots, and the best experts say that the tipping point on global warming will be less than a decade away.

The lack of desired progress to date by the electric utility industry in this State makes it clear that we need to raise the bar. Proposition 7 does just that in a realistic, well-thought-out manner.

I have considered the objections to Proposition 7, and find most of them to be conclusions without any factual basis in the language of Proposition 7.

The utility opponents are running TV ads saying again and again that small renewable producers below 30 megawatts would be excluded by Prop. 7. That is just plain wrong. Prop. 7 changes absolutely nothing about which size facility can qualify. The opponents fail to distinguish between “facilities” which count towards the Renewable Portfolio Standard without any size limitations, and “plants” over 30 megawatts which – for siting purposes only – will be approved by the Energy Commission. The opponents have either deliberately or sloppily failed to recognize that the 30 megawatt or lower distinction applies to plants which do not need an Energy Commission permit in the first place; and has nothing what so ever to do with which facilities qualify for the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

Today, both large and small producers qualify for the RPS. Tomorrow, if Proposition 7 passes, the same producers, both large and small would qualify for the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

Another complaint is that the Commissioners are given authority to excuse the fine for non-compliance in any year if there has been a good faith effort to comply. Please note that the commission, not the utilities, must make the findings. And, I would have trouble defending a law that fined a utility for a failure that was in fact beyond their control.

The opponents are saying Proposition 7 is both too tough and too easy. Perhaps it is just right.

We need more renewable electricity not just for today’s uses, but to power hybrid and all-electric cars. Proposition 7 can provide us the carbon-free domestic energy that will drive our nation’s vehicles for less than $1 a gallon gasoline equivalent.

Yes we can reach 50% renewable by 2025 or sooner.
Indeed, I say yes we must.

Now that, my friends, is good stuff.