>>China retrenches, commodity prices fall
November 26, 2008, 8:56 pm
Filed under: Events

Last month China’s electricity production fell, for the first time in years. Because American and European consumers have stopped buying imported manufactures, China’s industrial production is off sharply, with shut-downs in steel plants and other metal-smelting operations. To replace the foreign orders, China will pump almost $600 billion into their domestic consumer economy. They can do this more easily than we can because they actually have the cash. When we do a big stimulus package, we have to borrow it. Most of it from China.

One bright spot in all of this is that the cost of important commodities has plunged, and is likely to drop further. Copper and aluminum for electrical wiring, steel for powerline towers, even lead and lithium for whopping big batteries, are all going to be much cheaper for a few years. Now is the time to start building out that new smart grid and ramping up electric vehicle production.

On my way to work this morning I passed a gas station selling unleaded regular for $1.74. This makes me worry that folks are going to climb back into their SUVs. The polls say otherwise: Consumers are saving money everywhere they can now. The AAA forecasts that Thanksgiving travel will be down this weekend: air travel down 7.2%, road travel down 1.4%. If Americans drive over the river and through the woods in the smaller car, maybe gasoline purchases will drop 2% or 3% relative to Thanksgiving 2007.

My advice: Stay home. Watch football. Eat more turkey, and walk it off.


>>SOLAR 2008 closes on call for political action
May 9, 2008, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Events, Policy

San Diego, May 8 — SOLAR 2008 finished today with a rousing call to build a grassroots renewable energy movement.

Bracken HendricksBracken Hendricks, co-author of Apollo’s Fire and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, summarized the sense of the conference: that economically viable technologies exist right now to replace most fossil fuels, dramatically reduce greenhouse gas pollution and by doing so create valuable jobs in a variety of new industries.

“What we face now is a problem of political will,” Hendricks told the closing luncheon. “We need a movement to solve a global challenge.”

Hendricks quoted Martin Luther King, who wrote in reference to the nuclear arms race a generation ago, “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

The annual conference of the American Solar Energy Society drew about 5000 attendees. A preliminary count indicated a 50% rise in the number of people attending the full six days of workshops, seminars, technical presentations, panels and trainings.

>>Tools exist to defeat global warming
May 7, 2008, 8:16 pm
Filed under: Events, Policy

By Seth Masia

San Diego, May 7 – If we’re going to halt global warming, we need to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions within seven years, and then cut emissions by 20% within another decade.

Fortunately, according to speakers at today’s SOLAR 2008 plenary session on community solutions, the tools and technologies to achieve those goals – while repairing the U.S. economy – are available now.

Ed Mazria, AIA, founder of Architecture 2030, pointed out that during the 11 years from 1973 to 1983 the U.S. reduced its greenhouse gas emissions thanks largely to improved building efficiency and federally-mandated mileage standards. “We did that with the knowledge and technology we had in the ‘70s and early ‘80s,” he said. “Imagine what we could do now.”

Mazria said that there is a silver bullet to save the climate: Simply eliminate coal as an energy source. Petroleum and natural gas are now in such short supply that they cannot, economically, contribute much more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. But there’s enough coal left to drive greenhouse gas pollution for several centuries, and no economically viable way to clean it.

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>>Solar 2008
May 4, 2008, 2:19 pm
Filed under: Events

Seth Masia

The SOLAR 2008 Conference kicked off in San Diego on Saturday, with first-day registration up about 50% over Solar 2007. This is nice to know, considering that photovoltaic installations rose about 40% in 2007 over 2006 — the attendance rise suggests that consumer interest will continue to push the growth of solar power at the same pace despite the slowdown of the economy at large.

Jason Keyes of the ASES Board of Directors made a great point: If renewable energy, continues to grow at 40% per year, it can displace all other forms of electric power generation in just 16 years, even with a 2% annual growth in demand.

Keep up the good work!