SOLAR TODAY Blog


>>Solar Today launches online edition
June 30, 2008, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Media

SOLAR TODAY is now available online, in a digital edition. For now, access is free. Click here to check it out.

The digital version is a line-for-line, page-for-page duplicate of the print edition, but is text-searchable and carries no carbon footprint. The July-August issue is up now.

The cover story: Resolving the Biofuels Dilemma.

Also featured:

  • How to finance your solar system: Finding money, tax credits and incentives
  • Going solar in a condo: A Chicago couple did it
  • Boom times for solar: The industry grew 40% in 2007
  • SOLAR 2008: What happened at the ASES National Conference in San Diego
  • Oregon builds a solar industry
  • Recycling industry means recession-proof investing
  • Living the good life off-grid

. . . and more.



>>Bodman tells Congress: No silver bullets in energy
June 27, 2008, 8:13 pm
Filed under: Policy

Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman testified in Congress today on energy security issues. Read the full text here.

nullHe summed it up by saying that DOE is

advancing the effort to curb America’s dependence on fossil fuels and reduce GHG emissions. These efforts are expected to eventually help mitigate the effects high energy prices have on the American taxpayer. There is no silver bullet that will immediately solve our energy challenges, or drastically reduce costs at the gas pump. But we need to work together and answer the President’s call to increase domestic exploration, expand our nuclear infrastructure as well as solve our long-term nuclear waste storage challenge.

Along the way he made brief mention of research support in renewable energy and coal-plant carbon sequestration. No mention of the freeze on renewable power plant permits on federal land.>>



>>BLM imposes moratorium on renewable power plants
June 27, 2008, 7:06 pm
Filed under: Policy

About three weeks ago, we reported that the Bureau of Land Management was snowed under with permit applications for new solar and geothermal plants in California and Nevada, and wanted a moratorium on new applications.

Now they’ve got it. According to today’s New York Times, applications are frozen for study — which will take up to two years. 130 applications submitted before the end of May will be processed. BLM says they want to look at the potential impact on habitat, water use and potential for land restoration after the plant closes some decades on.

This is not good news. Climate Progress concludes that it’s a sly way for the lame duck Bush administration to stall renewable energy work on federal lands, while oil and natural gas drilling proceed elsewhere.

The first victims of this policy, if it stands, will be start-up renewable energy developers. But it may also put public utility companies at risk of coming up short, and late, in meeting RPS deadlines.

This may shape up to be a fight between clean-energy advocates on one hand and habitat-preservation advocates on the other, between the Feds on one side and state governments on the other.

Congress should step in on this one, right now. Rant to your legislators.



>>CIBC: $7 gas, stagflation in our future
June 26, 2008, 8:14 pm
Filed under: Fossil fuel

CIBC World Markets, the Canadian-based international bank, has just released two very sobering forecasts.

Getting Off the Road: Adjusting to $7 Gas in America predicts $200-per-barrel oil by 2010. By 2012 Americans will cut their miles driven by 15%, as 57 million commuters crowd onto overtaxed public transport systems. Sales of oversize vehicles — SUVs and light trucks — will plummet 50%.

What will that do to the economy? Oil and Growth: That 70s Show Rerun predicts it will drive inflation and therefore higher interest rates. The result will limit real annual growth to about 1% — what economists call stagflation, where unemployment rates and inflation rates drive a rising “misery index.”

The only bright spot will be continued spectacular growth in renewable energy and electric transport. Better invest now.



>>Obama outlines energy plans
June 25, 2008, 3:21 pm
Filed under: Policy

Barack Obama gave a speech on energy policy yesterday in Las Vegas. In it, he promised to

  • tax oil companies to pay for a $1000 tax rebate to working Americans.
  • enforce CAFE standards and help auto companies meet their efficiency targets.
  • invest $150 billion in renewable energy.
  • impose fees for unused drilling leases.

Here’s the full text of the speech:

I want to start by thanking the folks here at Springs Preserve for the wonderful tour we just had. What we are seeing here — from the solar panels that power this facility to the Bombard workers who built it — is that a green, renewable energy economy isn’t some pie-in-the-sky, far-off future, it is now. It is creating jobs, now. It is providing cheap alternatives to $140-a-barrel oil, now. And it can create millions of additional jobs and entire new industries if we act now.

All across the country, local leaders and entrepreneurs and small business owners are providing the innovation and initiative needed to make this transformation possible. In Pennsylvania, an old steel mill has become the home of a new wind turbine factory because of the state’s push for renewable portfolio standards that require the production of more alternative energy. Wisconsin is poised to gain more than 14,000 jobs at existing manufacturing facilities because of its investment in wind power. Where we’re standing in Southern Nevada happens to be one of the best sources for the generation of solar power in the world. Next week, our friend and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will come here to cut the ribbon on a new thermal solar technology plant. And between solar, wind, and geothermal energy, this state could create upwards of 80,000 new jobs by 2025.

The possibilities of renewable energy are limitless. But to truly harness its potential, we urgently need real leadership from Washington – leadership that has been missing for decades. We have been talking about energy independence since Americans were waiting in gas lines during the 1970s. We’ve heard promises about it in every State of the Union for the last three decades. But each and every year, we become more, not less, addicted to oil – a 19th century fossil fuel that is dirty, dwindling, and dangerously expensive. Why?

It isn’t because the resources and technology aren’t there. We know this because countries like Spain, Germany, and Japan have already leapt ahead of us when it comes to renewable energy technology. Germany, a country as cloudy as the Pacific Northwest, is now a world leader in the solar power industry and the quarter million new jobs it has created. In less than eight years, before we’d ever see a drop of oil from offshore drilling, they have doubled their renewable energy output. And they did it by using technology that, in some cases, was paid for by the American people through our own Research and Development tax credits. The difference is, their government harnessed that technology by providing the necessary investments and incentives to jumpstart a renewable energy industry. Washington hasn’t done that.

What Washington has done is what Washington always does – it’s peddled false promises, irresponsible policy, and cheap gimmicks that might get politicians through the next election, but won’t lead America toward the next generation of renewable energy. And now we’re paying the price. Now we’ve fallen behind the rest of the world. Now we’re forced to beg Saudi Arabia for more oil. Now we’re facing gas prices over $4 a gallon – gas prices that are decimating the savings of families who are already struggling in this economy. Like the man I met in Pennsylvania who lost his job and couldn’t even afford the gas to drive around and look for a new one. That’s how badly folks are hurting. That’s how badly Washington has failed.

For decades, John McCain has been a part of this failure in Washington. Yes, he has gone further than some in his party in speaking out on climate change. And that is commendable. But time and time again, he has opposed investing in the alternative sources of energy that have helped fuel some of the very same projects and businesses he’s highlighting in this campaign. He’s voted against biofuels. Against solar power. Against wind power. Against a 2005 energy bill that represented the largest ever investment in renewable sources of energy – a bill that Senator McCain’s own campaign co-chair, called “the biggest legislative breakthrough we’ve had” since he’s been in the Senate. That bill certainly wasn’t perfect – it contained irresponsible tax breaks for oil companies that I consistently opposed, and that I will repeal as President. But the tax credits in that bill contributed to wind power growing 45% last year, the sharpest rise in decades. If John McCain had his way, those tax credits wouldn’t exist. And if we don’t renew key tax incentives for alternative energy production – tax incentives that John McCain opposed continuing – we could lose up to 116,000 green jobs and $19 billion in investment just next year. And now he’s talking about a tax credit for more efficient cars even though he helped George Bush block these credits twice in the last year. Continue reading



>>McCain backs domestic drilling
June 23, 2008, 6:46 pm
Filed under: Policy

In a speech last Tuesday in Houston, to an audience of oil executives, John McCain outlined an energy policy He said

  • Federal regulations should defer to states regarding the opening of offshore drilling leases and the opening of ANWR for oil exploitation.
  • The U.S. should fast-track construction of 100 new nuclear plants.
  • Tax incentives should support renewable energy sources.

For a good summary of the talk, see the Houston Chronicle’s coverage.



>>Times: Obama has ties to ethanol interests
June 23, 2008, 5:09 pm
Filed under: Policy

A front page story in today’s New York Times carries the headline “Obama Camp Closely Linked With Ethanol.”

Right now, that apparently means corn ethanol. Illinois is the second-largest producer of corn, after Iowa. Sen. Obama has expressed support for the tariffs that keep Brazilian ethanol out of the U.S. market. The article says nothing about the future of domestic cane ethanol.

Corn ethanol may turn out to be a bridge technology to renewable feedstocks that are dramatically less dependent on fossil-based fertilizers, along with fossil cultivation, transport and processing fuels. Meanwhile, it’s nice to know that Midwestern polticians are crossing that bridge.

Sunday’s Op-Ed page carried a rant from Thomas Friedman that’s well worth reading. He says that the Bush energy plan is to intensify our addiction to oil. He writes:

Actually, it’s more sophisticated than that: Get Saudi Arabia, our chief oil pusher, to up our dosage for a little while and bring down the oil price just enough so the renewable energy alternatives can’t totally take off. Then try to strong arm Congress into lifting the ban on drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.