Environment


Two years ago presidential candidate Barack Obama promised that he would create 5 million green jobs and was elected president  less tha a month later based on the country’s dissatisfaction with George Bush and the hope that he wasn’t just spinning another empty campaign promise.

Thanks partly to an overeager candidate and a brutal recession Obama has struggled to keep that promise and nowhere is that more eveident than in Ocala, Florida where workers that were retrained for green jobs with stimulus money are still waiting for them to materialize.

From the Washington Post

After losing his way in the old economy, Laurance Anton tried to assure his place in the new one by signing up for green jobs training earlier this year at his local community college.

Anton has been out of work since 2008, when his job as a surveyor vanished with Florida’s once-sizzling housing market. After a futile search, at age 56 he reluctantly returned to school to learn the kind of job skills the Obama administration is wagering will soon fuel an employment boom: solar installation, sustainable landscape design, recycling and green demolition.

Anton said the classes, funded with a $2.9 million federal grant to Ocala’s workforce development organization, have taught him a lot. He’s learned how to apply Ohm’s law, how to solder tiny components on circuit boards and how to disassemble rather than demolish a building.

The only problem is that his new skills have not resulted in a single job offer. Officials who run Ocala’s green jobs training program say the same is true for three-quarters of their first 100 graduates.

“I think I have put in 200 applications,” said Anton, who exhausted his unemployment benefits months ago and now relies on food stamps and his dwindling savings to survive. “I’m long past the point where I need some regular income.”

With nearly 15 million Americans out of work and the unemployment rate hovering above 9 percent for 18 consecutive months, policymakers desperate to stoke job creation have bet heavily on green energy. The Obama administration channeled more than $90 billion from the $814 billion economic stimulus bill into clean energy technology, confident that the investment would grow into the economy’s next big thing.

The infusion of money is going to projects such as weatherizing public buildings and constructing advanced battery plants in the industrial Midwest, financing solar electric plants in the Mojave desert and training green energy workers.

But the huge federal investment has run headlong into the stubborn reality that the market for renewable energy products – and workers – remains in its infancy. The administration says that its stimulus investment has saved or created 225,000 jobs in the green energy industry, a pittance in an economy that has shed 7.5 million jobs since the recession took hold in December 2007.

The industry’s growth has been undercut by the simple economic fact that fossil fuels remain cheaper than renewables. Both Obama administration officials and green energy executives say that the business needs not just government incentives, but also rules and regulations that force people and business to turn to renewable energy.

Without government mandates dictating how much renewable energy utilities must use to generate electricity, or placing a price on the polluting carbon emitted by fossil fuels, they say, green energy cannot begin to reach its job creation potential.

“Green energy investment has been a central talking point of the Obama administration’s job growth strategy,” said Samuel Sherraden, a policy analyst at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan research organization. “It was a little bit too ambitious given the size and depth of the recession and the small size of the renewable energy industry.”

Sherraden said it was unwise for the administration to invest so heavily in green energy, at least if short-term job creation was the goal. He said green energy comes with “political and market uncertainty” that has overwhelmed its job creation potential.

Despite that, Obama has described the surge of clean energy spending as crucial both to the nation’s economic and environmental future.

“Our future as a nation depends on making sure that the jobs and industries of the 21st century take root here in America,” Obama said in October. “And there is perhaps no industry with more potential to create jobs now – and growth in the coming years – than clean energy.”

But other administration officials acknowledge that it is likely to be years before the spending on green energy produces large numbers of jobs. And they add that only part of the money earmarked for green energy has been spent. They also agree that the government will have to help create demand to support green energy.

Still, they are optimistic for the long term, even if the spending will not significantly ease the nation’s unemployment crisis in the short run.

Anton isn’t the only one wating for a job.

Carols Arandia, 59, has earned seven green jobs certificates since beginning classes this year, while renting a room from a friend to weather the hard times.

Often studying well into the night, Arandia is familiar with hard work. He ran a small manufacturing business in his native Venezuela before arriving in the United States in 1996. For years, he lugged around a dictionary and a notebook in which he religiously wrote down words and phrases until his English became passable. He worked seven years at Boston Chicken. Later, he sold cars.

But now, after nearly two years of being out of work and a series of classes that have not led to a job, his optimism is dimming.

“What is the point of giving somebody the tools to do something but to have nowhere to use them?” he asked. “I think it’s a great program, but I don’t see the connection with all the training and jobs. And I need a job.”

Christine Bageant, 45, also jumped at the opportunity to train in green jobs, after losing her position at the county library. She viewed the new classes as an opportunity to “get in on the ground floor of something big.”

Since then she has earned similar training certificates as Arandia. A few months ago she started looking for work as a painter. She thought her newly acquired expertise in abating lead paint would make her a hot commodity.

But many of the painting contractors she has interviewed with are tiny companies, with no more than two or three employees. They are struggling to survive, and Bageant’s expertise in lead abatement has left them unimpressed.

“Right now they are blowing it off,” she shrugged. “They don’t think it’s important.”

Officials who helped develop the training program nod knowingly when asked about the difficulty graduates are having landing jobs.

“I think this is a great program,” said Peter J. Tesch, president and chief executive of the Ocala/Marion County Economic Development Corp. “Applying it to real life, that is the challenge. In a place like Florida everybody’s talking the talk, but they’re not walking the walk. The market place has not caught up to the technical training and skill sets that have been provided these people.”

That much was obvious at a recent ceremony for 15 graduates of a solar electric training class. The students beamed proudly as family members took pictures and program officials offered words of wisdom.

Then, one-by-one, they walked up front to receive their certificates. But rather than serving as a passport to a job, the certificates were more like IOUs to be redeemed sometime in the distant future.

Ocala’s goal was to create 665 jobs in the renewable energy industry but to date graduates of the program are no better off than they were before despite their training.

“There is significant job creation potential in clean energy. But it is not revealing itself quickly or clearly,” said Jerone Gamble, executive manager of continuing education at the College of Central Florida, and a chief architect of the green jobs training program. “In the time being, we’re really selling hope.”

While it would have been difficult to predict the depth of the recession he should have known that the green jobs depends on a combination of government regulations, a relatively healthy economy and lots of federal subsidies to make solar and wind energy attractive to homeowners and businesses.

And you can’t put a solar panel on a foreclosed home which there is an abundance of in Florida so the very idea that Ocala is still bothering to train people for non-existent jobs shows what a waste of taxpayer money this program has been.

The graduates shouldn’t set their sights too high because as Jerone Gamble said in the article, they are “selling hope” much like Obama did two years ago to the American public.  And we all know how well that turned out.

Forner vice-president and noted environmental activist Al Gore issues a mea culpa of sorts when he admitted that his support fr corn-based  ethanol was a mistake.

From Reuters

Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore said support for corn-based ethanol in the United States was “not a good policy”, weeks before tax credits are up for renewal.

U.S. blending tax breaks for ethanol make it profitable for refiners to use the fuel even when it is more expensive than gasoline. The credits are up for renewal on Dec. 31.

Total U.S. ethanol subsidies reached $7.7 billion last year according to the International Energy Industry, which said biofuels worldwide received more subsidies than any other form of renewable energy.

“It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for (U.S.) first generation ethanol,” said Gore, speaking at a green energy business conference in Athens sponsored by Marfin Popular Bank.

“First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.

“It’s hard once such a programme is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going.”

He explained his own support for the original programme on his presidential ambitions.

“One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”

U.S. ethanol is made by extracting sugar from corn, an energy-intensive process. The U.S. ethanol industry will consume about 41 percent of the U.S. corn crop this year, or 15 percent of the global corn crop, according to Goldman Sachs analysts.

A food-versus-fuel debate erupted in 2008, in the wake of record food prices, where the biofuel industry was criticised for helping stoke food prices.

Gore said a range of factors had contributed to that food price crisis, including drought in Australia, but said there was no doubt biofuels have an effect.

“The size, the percentage of corn particularly, which is now being (used for) first generation ethanol definitely has an impact on food prices.

“The competition with food prices is real.”

Gore supported so-called second generation technologies which do not compete with food, for example cellulosic technologies which use chemicals or enzymes to extract sugar from fibre for example in wood, waste or grass.

“I do think second and third generation that don’t compete with food prices will play an increasing role, certainly with aviation fuels.”

This is a little bit like a “Come to Jesus” moment for Hore as he admitted that not only was he mistaken in supporting corn-based ethanol but he largely did so because he was going to run for president and needed the farm vote.

Conservatives have been saying for years that corn-based ethanol is not cost effective only to be drowned out by environmentalists like Gore and the liberal media who jumped on every green energy scheme that crossed their path regardless of the facts.

Hopefully Gore’s statement will help kill the subsidy which amounted to $3 billion in credits in 2007 and was expected to reach $5 billion this year but the corn lobby will fight hard for the chance to continue feeding at the government trough.

the free market should decide what renewable energy sources succeed and fail but the problem with allowing that to happen is that mot of them would fail without heavy government subsidies which we all pay for so green energy isn’t as cheap as the left would have us believe.

For now I’m sticking to corn on the cob.

Wind power long hailed as a cheap and clean source of energy has been hit hard by the realization that being cheap is not the same as being the cheapest energy source during a recession.

Take Invenergy a company that builds wind farms.  Just two years ago the company has banks that were willing to lend it millions of dollars to provide a green breeze of juice across the country.  They even had a deal to sell energy to a utility in Virginia.  But then came the recession along with a surplus of natural gas that has turned the economic numbers against wind power.

In Virginia state regulators rejected the deal citing lower costs from fossil fuels and natural gas.  They calculated that wind energy would increase rates by 0.2 percent and that any increase couldn’t be justified no matter how small in the midst of a recession.

And so it has gone in other states like Florida,Idaho and Kentucky where deals have either been scuttled or slowed down pushing the adoption of wind energy several years down the line.

While state regulators have tried to be more fiscally responsible wind energy advocates have been arguing that the failure to add clean energy to the power mix is shortsighted and harmful to the environment.

But this is a typical liberal argument that it doesn’t matter what it costs if it’s good for the environment.  Yet in the case of many wind energy projects that is debatable.

Take Rhode Island for instance where regulators earlier this year rejected an offshore wind energy deal that would have cost 24.4 cents per kilowatt hour versus the 9.5 cents per kilowatt hour cost using electricity and fossil fuels.  That’s more than double the cost to be clean and green.  Maybe the Al Gore’s and Kennedy’s of the world can afford to pay a premium for being green but most Americans can’t and won’t especially with a sour economy.

It’s a little like going organic.  Americans flocked to stores like Whole Foods when times were good and didn’t care about overpaying for food if it was organic.  But as soon as the recession hit Whole Foods went into a tailspin that they are now only recovering from.  The same goes for many green advocates who ignored the true cost of renewable energy during the boom years but now balk at the cost of doing so leading to a slowdown in the movement.

The Rich Get Richer

Remember the Pickens Plan?  Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens extolled the virtues of wind energy several years ago as oil topped $140 a barrel and spent millions on television ads extolling his vision.

The only problem was that he was going to erect a massive number of wind turbines even in areas that had little wind which would have been heavily subsidized by the government without a clear plan as to how he was going to transmit the energy generated from such far flung locations.

If his plan had gone forward the taxpayers would have been footing the bill for a very long time in exchange for a limited amount of energy.

Pickens had a plan alright.  It was how to make his next billion on the backs of the taxpayers.

I think it is inevitable that we will move to more types of renewable energy as time goes on thanks largely to taxpayer subsidies for solar panels and wind turbines.  But with this move comes increased costs which may appear small to some but multiplied over the ratepayer base will add up to millions of dollars in unneeded expense in the name of saving the environment.

Frankly I just want cheap clean energy.  Give me nuclear.

 

 

The green energy movement which preaches that they want to save the planet by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and thus our carbon footprint has hit a wall recently as more and more people realize that their is a very real cost to being green.

Case in point is my local utility Washington Gas.  They sent a letter to their customers promoting their Clean Steps Wind Power solution. 

According to the letter customers are currently receiving 5% of their electricity from wind power but now have a chance to increase that to 100%. 

By switching to wind power every customer will be using the equivalent of 700 fewer gallons of gasoline  per year.

I have to admit that sounds pretty good.  Who wouldn’t want to save gasoline and multiplied the utility’s customer base that could be a very significant number.  To date the company has convinced over 10,000 customers to make the switch.

Now there is just one tiny catch to this do good policy.  To switch you have to agree to pay for the privilege.

If you want 50% wind energy then it will cost an extra $10 per month, at 100% an extra $20 per month.

That’s just what I want to do in the midst of a recession is to increase my energy costs.  Thanks but no thanks.

Yes the green energy movement wants us to “save the planet” by opening up our wallets to pay for the privilege.  Just look at solar energy.  It would be totally dead in the water if it wasn’t for government subsidies.  And remember T. Boone Pickens’ wind scheme of just a couple of years ago?  He wanted to build a massive wind farm in the midwest but it collapsed as oil prices fell and the inability to get the government to agree to subsidize the building of transmission lines.  Even a billionaire like Pickens was lining up at the government trough.

By the way if they really wanted to give me clean energy offer me nuclear power which is cheap and effcicient. Then we can talk.

I will do something for the environment though as a result of this mailing.  The letter and envelope it came in will be deposited in my paper recycling bin so it can be reborn in yet another letter pushing another green scheme in the future.

In less than one month after the much hyped U.N. Climate Change Conference much of Europe and parts of the U.S. were hit by a series of snowstorms and cold weather that has frayed nerves and cost businesses thousands of dollars in lost business and productivity and in the case of  farmers in Ireland over $20 million at last count in ruined potatoes and produce.

How bad has this winter been so far?  According to the New York Times Grenoble France received almost a foot of snow, something they haven’t seen in 20 years,  Spain was forced to bring in the Army to clear roads, 100,000 people in Poland lost power and the Eurostar train that runs from Paris to London was forced to run only one train in each direction  due to harsh weather conditions.

Germany which hailed Obama during his presidential campaign and has been quick to endorse the cutting of carbon emissions now finds itself facing up to $3 billion of losses due to snow and cold temperatures.

But does all this cold weather mean that global warming or climate change is a hoax as conservatives charge?  Yes and no.  For me a cold winter is no more an example that global warming is a hoax as a very hot summer means that the earth’s temperature is warming and that we are headed for disaster.

What it does prove is that temperatures and climate are cyclical.  Remember we get El Nino bringing in especially hot weather in some years and La Nina is accompanied by cooler weather in others.

That is what the left though fails to recognize as they constantly preach their message that we have to take drastic and costly action now otherwise we will face as Al Gore said a twenty foot wall of water coming down on us.

And what about David Viner a senior research scientist at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in Britain who predicted this in 2000.

Britain’s winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain’s culture, as warmer winters – which scientists are attributing to global climate change – produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.

He also added that “Children won’t know what snow is.”  Well they certainly do now.

But we shouldn’t be too surprised at Viner’s  prediction since it came from the same outfit that is behind the Climategate e-mail scandal which has rocked the scientific world and thrown into doubt that global warming exists or that there is a consensus on the issue.

Al Gore and his ilk have been strangely silent during this latest cold snap but you can bet we will hear from them as soon as the thermometer begins to rise.

The Obama administration is hailing the success of the $3 billion cash for clunkers program that saw nearly 700,000 people trade their older gas guzzlers in for sleek new energy efficient models.

If one were to judge the program solely on the basis of how many cars were sent to the scrap heap and the short term boost that the new care sales gave to the beleaguered auto industry then maybe it was a success.

But the program was a spectacular failure as a way to implement environmental policy.

According to Michael Wara an assistant professor at Stanford Law School and a faculty fellow at the university’s program on energy and sustainable development the program cost the government $200 to $400 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions avoided.   Compare that to the recently passed climate change bill in Congress which pegged the cost to be $28 per ton by 2020.

Wara’s most conservative estimate has the cost of carbon dioxide avoidance at $201 per ton but that is based on the assumption the clunkers would have been driven another 100,000 miles each.  With many of the cars barely running that is an unlikely scenario.

If the cars could have lasted another 50,000 miles the cost would double to $402 per ton  or  $303 per ton at 75,000 miles or more than ten times the cost estimate in the climate change bill.

Just like the climate change bill which will impose huge costs on businesses and the public to reduce greenhouse gases the cash for clunkers program has proven itself to be yet another wasteful government program that was promoted as both an economic stimulus and a way to help save the environment.

In the end our children and grandchildren will pay the price of this clunker of a program for generations to come.

As the month of July comes to an end many cities around the country are experiencing the unexpected in cooler than normal temperatures.

Recorded temperatures through July 17th in New York City are 4.4 degrees below normal with the hottest day only reaching 85 degrees.  If the temperature doesn’t top 90 degrees at least one day in the last two weeks of the month it will mark the first time that has happened since 1996.

Washington,  D.C. is experiencing a similarly cooler than normal July with temperatures running about 4 degrees below normal and having topped the 90 degree mark just 5 times as of last Sunday.

Other cities that are enjoying a more pleasant summer are Memphis which is on track to record its seventh coolest July since 1850 and Cleveland where temperatures are running 2.5 degrees below normal.  In Bluefield, West Virginia the airport even recorded a record low temperature one night this month.

So what does all this mean? That maybe just maybe temperatures vary over time bringing us hotter than normal summers or cooler than normal winters and therefore lend credence to the theory that global warming or climate change is a myth.

It is interesting to note that as much of the country experiences a much milder summer than expected advocates for global warming measures have been strangely silent.  Yet if they were really interested in global warming they should be elated at the cooler temperatures since that means fewer air conditioners running which translates to lower energy use and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Normally the media is replete with stories of suffering and death due to the hot weather in the summer and making the link to global warming.  But now that temperatures aren’t breaking any records on the upside the media has strangely lost interest in the weather as they watch the global warming bubble burst.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that homeowners in Austin, TX are now facing the additional burden of a mandatory energy audit on their homes before they can sell.

The audits which are targeted at less energy efficient (read older) homes can include checks on a home’s air-conditioning and heating systems and insulation and air-tightness and normally costs $200 to $300 on top of the repair cost which can run into the thousands.

With home sales in Austin down as they are in much of the country- April’s figures show an 18% slide compared to last year at the same point in time the law has homeowners and real estate professionals howling about the potential effect on future sales.

To top it off sellers who refuse the audit can be charged with a misdemeanor which one city councilman said was to show that the city was serious about the measure.

The city for its part says the audits are necessary to help keep Austin from having to build a new power plant by 2020 and that out of more than 300 audits conducted so far the average home was found to have leaking in their duct systems that was double what was recommended and attic insulation that was six inches thinner than ideal.

There is little doubt that power plants are expensive to build and operate and that saving energy is a worthwhile goal.  And I’m sure there are homebuyers who desire a more energy efficient or airtight home but generally make their purchase decisions based on other factors such as location, schools, shopping etc… Although I have read stories about people buying energy efficient or green homes I personally don’t know anyone who has made that a priority when looking for a home. Just look at Al Gore.

At this level home sales don’t have much further to go before they come to a grinding halt and adding this law at a time of economic distress seems dumb to say the least.  In their zeal to go green the city council has discounted the potential effect on sales which directly affects tax revenues which I doubt the city can afford to see shrink more than they already have.  Oh, wait a minute they are in line for stimulus money for doing so and that makes it revenue neutral even though the stimulus money comes from- the taxpayers!

Austin may call this an energy audit but it is really nothing more than a stealth energy that should be repealed before it spreads across the country and wrecks local economies.

The Heartland Institute which is based in Chicago is holding their 2nd annual International Conference on Climate Change in Times Square this week.  Attendance at this years conference was estimated to be close to 800 which is double the number that attended the inaugural event last year.

So far attendees have heard from a host of speakers that included the Czech president Vaclav Klaus who has become a celebrity with the skeptics for his strong stand against global warming and the econmic costs of enacting a global cap and trade program.

In the Economics and Politics track the discussion ranged from discussions on the economic impact of energy rationing, the political outlook for cap and trade, morality of energy rationing and the Kyoto protocols.

Myron Ebell from the Competitive Enterprise Institute told the audience that McCain’s loss in November was actually a plus for opponents of cap and trade as he has been a major proponent of the legislation and that several pro cap and trade Senators lost as well and weren’t replaced by Democrats with the same viewpoint.  One of the best talks was delivered by Roy Innis from the Congress On Racial Equality.  Innis who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease said that he hoped that President Obama was correct when he announced the reversal of Bush-era restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and that those suffering from Parkinson’s and other diseases will find relief.  He also recalled a conversation that he had with a woman in Uganda whose child was suffering from malaria who told him that she would rather see her child suffer than see the environment harmed by the increased use of DDT.  It is unfortunate that the people of Africa who are dying from the lack of DDT would believe some spurious claim that it will hurt them more than help them.

In one of the last panels of the day, Tom Tanton of the Pacific Research Institute made the case that we don’t want to follow California’s lead when it comes to environmental legislation.  Tanton estimates that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will cost the California economy $510 billion at a time when they can least afford it.

The conference has come under criticism by global warming proponents for the lack of scientific experts addressing the attendees,  and in that regard they are generally correct.  But then again even the most novice skeptic at the conference is still eminently more qualified than Al Gore to discuss the issue.

Global warming alarmists have gained another ally in Hollywood.  This time it’s actress Alicia Silverstone who si best known for her role in the 1995 movie “Clueless”  and has done little of note since that time.

In a phone interview with a reporter for the University of Wisconsin- Madsion’s Badger Herald she stated that she her backing for Barack Obama’s global warming policies started when she learned that “he was not taking money from lobbyists, which is ultimately corporate funding.”

“I was impressed when I heard him talking about how we give corporations free rides regarding their use of the environment,” Silverstone said. “Obama will make corporations pay for the harmful emissions that they put into the air and keep corporations responsible, ” she told the Badger Herald.

But that isn’t in the Obama plan.  What Obama proposes is enacting a cap and trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to invest $150 billion over the next 10 years in renewable energy plus a host of other green proposals.

There is no doubt that Obama’s plan will cost corporations plenty but not in the way Silverstone imagines.

Memo to Hollywood: If you are going to get politicall involved please study your candidate’s platform so you don’t look like a total idiot.

For Silverstone though she just can’t help it.

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