Renewable Tax Credits Not Renewed…Again

July 30, 2008

From E&E (sub. req’d):

A Senate bill to extend renewable energy tax credits stalled again today when Republicans blocked the measure on the floor, arguing for a debate instead on the expansion of offshore oil-and-gas leasing.

A Democratic motion to bring up the so-called extenders bill failed, 51-43 — falling short of the 60 needed to launch formal debate. In addition to extending expiring credits for wind and solar projects, energy provisions in the bill include credits for plug-in hybrid cars, cellulosic ethanol production and coal projects that control greenhouse gases.


T. Boone’s Onto Something

July 30, 2008

We’re #1! We’re #1!

The American Wind Energy Association is expected to release a survey next month that says the US has become the world’s leading wind producer, and that the industry expects rapid growth to continue in places like Texas, the Great Plains and California.

And as Grist points out, more wind energy production has meant more jobs:

The hype is very real. Reliable correspondents from the American Wind Energy Association’s massive June conference in Texas report that everyone was talking about a shortage of trained and experienced people. I believe that “we need people yesterday” was the exact phrase. So while “the answer” may not be blowing in the wind, a zephyr of new jobs is sweeping down the plains. Turbines are sprouting like wildflowers after rain in Texas, California, Iowa, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Illinois, and Oklahoma.

Honda: Fit as a Fiddle This Quarter

July 30, 2008
Honda's profit machine.

Honda's profit machine.

Honda’s line of fuel-efficient vehicles has made the company profitable this quarter, despite high oil prices and a tanking US economy:

Honda Motor Co., Japan’s second- largest automaker, posted an unexpected 8.1 percent gain in fiscal first-quarter profit after record gasoline prices spurred demand for its fuel-efficient Fit and Civic cars.

And like Toyota, Honda is having problems keeping up with demand:

Some of its models – notably the diminutive Fit and Civic – have become such popular choices for downsizing drivers that the company is struggling to meet demand.

Subsidies Skew Global Oil Market

July 28, 2008

A high price for crude oil leads to an increased price for gasoline, which means fewer miles driven. Right?

It depends. In the U.S., the data show the market working according to Econ. 101 supply-and-demand principles:

A report to be released Monday by the Transportation Department shows that over the past seven months, Americans have reduced their driving by more than 40 billion miles. Because of high gasoline prices, they drove 3.7% fewer miles in May than they did a year earlier, the report says, more than double the 1.8% drop-off seen in April.

But in countries whose governments make gasoline more affordable through subsidies, demand for oil is increasing, even as the price of crude oil hovers around $125 a barrel:

…[I]n countries with subsidies, demand is still rising steeply, threatening to outstrip the growth in global supplies.

Nations with these subsidies are largely responsible for driving up oil demand–and consequently, the cost of fuel for everyone else:

The oil company BP, known for thorough statistical analysis of energy markets, estimates that countries with subsidies accounted for 96 percent of the world’s increase in oil use last year — growth that has helped drive prices to record levels.

It’s hard to see how these governments, especially those with a loose grip on power, could eliminate these subsidies. For now, it looks like the subsidies and higher gas prices are here to stay.

Texas Companies Bid To Build ‘Renewable Energy Superhighway’

July 25, 2008

There is no shortage of companies who want a part of the $5 billion project to transmit 18,500 megawatts of energy from rural wind farms to cities in Texas.  Without the new transmission lines, Texas wind energy will be all dressed with nowhere to go.

From the Dallas Morning News:

Oncor, the power transmission subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Future Holdings Corp., joined five other Texas-based transmission companies in a single bid on the $4.9 billion wind power transmission lines authorized last week.

Calling the project the Renewable Energy Superhighway, Oncor and its partners face competition from nearly a dozen other submissions made by Thursday’s deadline to show interest in the project.

Oncor would be the biggest player in its consortium bid, investing $2 billion to build more than 1,000 miles of transmission line. The remainder of the work would be divided among Electric Transmission Texas, AEP Texas Central Co., AEP Texas North Co., the Lower Colorado River Authority Transmission Service Corp. and Sharyland Utilities LP.

The Governors Get It

July 24, 2008

All 50 governors–where they’re a Democrat, Republican, Conservative or Liberal–signed on to a letter to Congress in support of a five year extension of the renewable energy tax credits.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter, via Gristmill:

Renewable energy plays an important role in our nation’s energy security, and governors have pioneered a wide array of innovative energy policies in their states. To supplement state efforts, governors support the development of federal tax incentives, including clean renewable energy bonds, to promote clean, secure, and affordable energy to fuel America’s future.

We also encourage Congress to continue to develop incentives for programs that help families and businesses use energy-efficient building techniques, materials, and equipment readily available in today’s market. Extending incentives for energy efficiency and conservation will slow the growth of future energy needs, minimize ratepayer costs, and lessen potential environmental impacts.

My guess is that Congress will pass an extension before the year is up, although Congress should act sooner rather than later so that clean tech companies can map out their future plans more accurately.

Efficiency Efficiency: The Most Efficient Cost-Cutting Measure

July 22, 2008

From the it-should-have-been-obvious-long-ago file, a new Carbon Trust report finds that it pays to save energy:

British businesses could save themselves £2.5bn over the next 12 months if they implemented energy efficiency schemes that would also cut 22m tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere

The £7m a day of savings – the equivalent of 100,000 staff salaries – have been calculated by researchers working for the government-sponsored Carbon Trust which says companies are finally waking up to energy efficiency as a way of dealing with rising energy prices – and global warming.

I’m not sure if the Carbon Trust spokesperson meant to rhyme, but the highlighted line below is great:

“Our research shows that energy efficiency measures, not job cuts or salary freezes, are the cost-cutting steps businesses are considering first during this economically challenging time. It’s an encouraging sign that wise companies are realising that cutting carbon and being green is the easiest way to make a business lean,” he adds.

Lean AND green. I like the sound of that!

The Windmills Turn, Less Coal is Burned, Deep in the Heart of Texas!

July 18, 2008

For renewable energy to compete with coal and gas, we need to improve our electricity grid. Right now, it’s much too difficult to transport the electricity generated by rural wind and solar energy farms to more populated areas where energy use is high.

But Texas is making sure it can capitalize on its abundant (and renewable!) natural resource–wind energy:

Texas, headquarters of America’s oil industry, is about to stake a fortune on wind power.

In what experts say is the biggest investment in the clean and renewable energy in U.S. history, utility officials in the Lone Star State gave preliminary approval Thursday to a $4.9 billion plan to build new transmission lines to carry wind-generated electricity from gusty West Texas to urban areas like Dallas. […]

Texas is already the national leader in wind power, generating about 5,000 megawatts. But wind-energy advocates say the lack of transmission lines has kept a lot of that power from being put to use and has hindered the building of more turbines.

A national overhaul of our antiquated electric grid is still in order, and it never hurts to have a huge oil state like Texas to show us the way.

The Green Apple

July 17, 2008

Ford, GM and Nissan have promised to provide a total of 300 hybrid vehicles to New York City. The deal will help Mayor Bloomberg achieve his goal of creating a 100% hybrid tax fleet.

Not only will Bloomberg’s push for hybrid cabs make they city’s air cleaner, it can help bring hybrid cars to scale.

Jim Kliesch of the Union of Concerned Scientists explains:

That sends a key signal to automakers and to parts suppliers, such as battery makers and what not, to gear up their efforts to supply millions of hybrids, not just to fleets but to general consumers in the immediate time frame.

Some folks are upset with the plan:

At least one fleet owner said Wednesday that there was not enough research yet about how safely hybrids can perform as taxi cabs, which can clock tens of thousands of miles each year and are on the road for longer lengths of time than regular cars.

Ron Sherman, of the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, said the city “is asking taxi passengers and taxi drivers to become human crash test dummies.”

Sherman is the dummy. You’re telling me that Crown Victorias–which made up most of the taxi cab fleet before Mayor Bloomberg’s hybrid plan went into effect–are the safest, most reliable vehicle out there? Puh-leeze. There’s a reason no one besides cops and cabbies drive Crown Vics…i.e. they’re awful cars.

First Solar Builds First System in California

July 16, 2008

To paraphrase that disembodied voice from Field of Dreams: If you provide incentives, they will come:

First Solar Inc. said Wednesday it has begun building the first rooftop solar system in a plan aimed at adding 250 megawatts of solar power capacity to large commercial rooftops in Southern California. […]

First Solar began work on the initial 2 megawatt project July 14, and expects to connect it to California’s power grid in September.

Separately, First Solar said it won approval to build a solar power plant in Blyth, Calif., that will produce at least 7.5 megawatts and as much as 21 megawatts of power.

For those of you who own First Solar stock, well played, sir!

Shares of First Solar rose $12.37, or 4.5 percent, to $289.37 in premarket activity.