Tea Party Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) castigated electric cars on G. Gordon Liddy’s radio show today, expressing his adamant opposition because, in the freshman’s words, “this is science that doesn’t make sense.”
Kelly, who was a wealthy car dealer before winning election in 2010, and Liddy spent the majority of the interview trading barbs about the Chevy Volt, a landmark American electric car produced by General Motors.
The Pennsylvania Republican said that the government ought not to help fund innovative renewable energy projects like the Volt because the “science [is] way out in front of the market.” Kelly went on to explain that “this is science that doesn’t make sense,” despite the fact that electric car technology has existed for nearly a century and was first developed by Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. He later declared that House Republicans “want to pull the plug on electric cars”:
KELLY: My problem with the Volt sir, and you and I have had this conversation. This is science that’s way out in front of the market. This is science that doesn’t make sense.
Listen to it:
Kelly’s opposition to subsidies appears to only include clean, renewable energies. In July, Kelly defended federal subsidies for oil and gas companies because “we want companies to be profitable.” The Tea Party Republican holds millions of dollars worth of stocks in Pennsylvania oil and gas companies.
In short, Kelly opposes funding clean energy projects because the science “doesn’t make sense,” but supports funding dirty energy because we want oil and gas companies “to be profitable.”
Building a low-carbon economy requires bold ideas and long-term thinking on a scale that matters.
Ideas like The Atlantic Wind Connection.
The Atlantic Wind Connection, you may recall, is a company that has embarked on a multi-billion dollar, decade-long project to build an undersea transmission cable stretching about 350 miles from northern New Jersey to southern Virginia. (See my 2010 blogpost, Google’s Atlantic coast wind deal.)
It will bring down the cost of offshore wind projects, create a more reliable electricity grid along the east coast and create thousands of jobs. The Atlantic Ocean is well-suited for offshore winds because its relatively shallow waters extend for miles out to sea, so turbines can take advantage of stronger winds and they are barely visible from land.
“It’s a scalable platform that literally creates a superhighway for offshore wind,” said Michael Terrell, who leads energy policy at Google, a major investor in Atlantic Wind.
But like most big, bold ideas, this one is risky, and so to assure the public that the project is alive and well, its executives and financial backers held a briefing yesterday (Nov. 30) at the National Press Club.
Mostly they talked about the economic impact of offshore wind. “Here is an opportunity to create an entirely new industry,” declared Bob Mitchell, the CEO of the Atlantic Wind Connection and a transmission-industry veteran. Chet Culver, the former governor of Iowa who is now an energy and infrastructure consultant, described how Iowa has become a manufacturing and distribution hub for the midwest wind-power industry, generating thousands of jobs. Mid-Atlantic states, he said, now have the same opportunity, if they embrace offshore wind. “We went from five percent to 20 percent renewable energy in Iowa in just five years,” he said. Keith Frederick, a political pollsters, said that nearly four out of five people in the region support wind power, and would be willing to pay $2 a month extra on their utility bills to pay for it.
But the Atlantic Wind Connection — which is a transmission line, not a power-generation project — won’t go forward without an offshore wind boom along the Atlantic Coast.. This is not a case of “if you build it, they will come.” Until wind farms are developed, financed and approved, the transmission line can’t go forward.
And, for now, the state of the mid-Atlantic offshore wind industry is, well, uncertain at best. The most advanced project between Virginia and New Jersey is a 450 megawatt farm begin developed by NRG Bluewater Wind off the coast of Delaware, which has been in development since 2006. According to NRG, the project needs to clear dozens of regulatory approvals from the state and federal governments, under such laws as the Clean Water Act, the Rivers and Harbors Acts of 1890 and 1899, the Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974 and the Abandoned Shipwreck Act. Who knew the wind business was so good for lawyers?
To put that 450 MW farm into context, the Atlantic wind people would like their transmission to be capable of integrating 7,000 MW of offshore wind generation into the mid-Atlantic power market. The more turbines that are connected, the more the project makes economic sense, obviously, because its costs can be spread over a broader base of consumers.
Offshore wind is, unfortunately, very expensive–more expensive that solar photovoltaic energy, more than twice the costs of ground-based wind, and three to four times more expensive than power plants that burn natural gas, at least at today’s low natural gas prices, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Although Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey all have renewable portfolio standards that require their utilities to bring on more wind and solar power, offshore wind projects are tough to sell to state regulators and electricity consumers. While the Atlantic Wind Connection is expressly intended to bring down those costs, it’s hard to know by how much.
With all those obstacles arrayed against the Atlantic Wind Connection, why pay attention at all?
Essentially, because of the backers. Google isn’t known for being dumb. Rick Needham, green business operations director at Google, says the company invested because the project “offers a solid financial return while helping to accelerate offshore wind development.” Google has invested roughly $850 million in a variety of clean energy projects in recent years. Says Needham: “We’re willing to take calculated risks on early stage ideas and projects that can have dramatic impacts while offering attractive returns.”
The other investors are heavyweights, too. Originally, they included Good Energies, a global investment firm that focuses on renewable energy and energy efficiency, and Marubeni, a publicly-traded Japanese conglomerate. Last summer they were joined by Elia, a transmission company based in Belgium whose CEO, Daniel Dobbeni, said at yesterday’s briefing that Elia has built transmission lines for offshore wind farms in the Baltic Sea.
Patience will be required from all. Bob Mitchell told me that if all goes well, construction of the transmission line could begin in 2014.
New LEAF System Will Provide Easier & Quicker Charging for Owners-
While the Chevy Volt has been making headlines in a not-so-desirable way with its battery fire debacle (any publicity is good publicity probably doesn’t apply here), Nissan LEAF is once again proving itself a more than worthy competitor in the EV market – especially considering the LEAF is an actual EV. Yesterday at the Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan announced its newest wireless charging technology which will allow owners of the LEAF to completely recharge its battery without having to install a charging system or find an extension cord. The flat floor pad can be positioned anywhere your car can fit, like a driveway or parking lot space. When LEAF owners park over the charging pad, sensors located underneath the EV will activate an electromagnet that sucks electricity from the car’s recharging coil. The auto maker affirms that weather conditions will not affect the wireless charging system. Another positive aspect about the new system is the accelerated charge time, which is eight hours using the pad. Typically, plugged into a standard 110V outlet, the charging time can be up to twenty hours if the battery is fully depleted. Nissan says its wireless system will become available sometime in 2013. Unfortunately, the currently existing LEAFs can not be altered to feature this technology, so those who have already purchased one will have to continue using the standard outlets and charging stations.
The responsible investing group Ceres is running ads supporting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s push to reduce industrial air pollution. Ceres’ ad, running in Politico, CQ Today, National Journal, and Roll Call, promotes the 1.5 million high-paying jobs for engineers, electricians, pipefitters, welders, and others that would be created by the spur to retrofit aging plants. Coal-powered electricity providers have falsely claimed the new rules to would threaten the reliability of electricity production, even though studies have shown that the old, polluting coal plants can be retired without any harm. This claim has been made in the past about previous rules, and the doomsday predictions have never come to pass.
One new initiative from the 99 Percent Movement is Occupy Our Homes, which aims to help victims of the foreclosure crisis. Although this effort has not been formerly named until now, communities have already seen remarkable success by planning to occupy homes threatened with foreclosure.
The Occupy protests got yet another victory last week in Rochester, New York. The Steidels contacted Take Back the Land and Occupy Rochester in September, and were soon joined by over 100 people who protested at Wells Fargo and foreclosure firm Steven J. Baum’s offices. If necessary, the groups threatened to encamp on the property; however, the mortgage giant Freddie Mac recently backed down, likely due to support from the public and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY).
This focus on helping shielding families from foreclosures helps answer the question of how the demonstrators will regroup for the winter. From Salon:
“This is a shift from protesting Wall Street fraud to taking action on behalf of people who were harmed by it. It brings the movement into the neighborhoods and gives people a sense of what’s really at stake,” said Max Berger, one of the Occupy Our Homes organizers and a member of Occupy Wall Street’s movement-building working group. The backdrop for all this is a new study suggesting the foreclosure crisis is only half over, with 4 million homes in some stage of foreclosure.
In a city like Rochester, there is ample opportunity to take action on behalf of those in need. Rochester has one of the highest children’s poverty rates at 43 percent as well as a poor city school system where only 5 percent of high school graduates meet minimum standards for college, compared to 72 percent in wealthier districts.
Republicans are running a shell game based on numerous lies:
– Even though dust related to industrial agriculture can be toxic and dangerous, conservatives like Newt Gingrich mock the threat.
– Even though the Environmental Protection Agency isn’t planning any new regulations, Republicans claim the EPA is trying to issue a new rule.
– Using “farm dust” as cover, Republicans write legislative language to exempt toxic pollution from mining and other industrial activities.
The “farm dust” scam is pernicious and deadly. But it’s a polluter lobbyist’s dream.
by Cole Mellino
When copying the model of land-based industrialized farming, current aquaculture practices can have many of the same negative environmental impacts inherent in industrial-scale agriculture.
U.S. aquaculture operations, primarily producing shellfish, are subject to stringent environmental regulations. But due to the poorly regulated use of high amounts of chemicals and antibiotics to maintain massive, centralized monocultures of fish and shrimp particularly in South America and southeast Asia, aquaculture farms have gained a reputation for polluting water and producing poor-quality food.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. The Atlantic had a fantastic piece this week on the growing movement to clean up aquaculture operations — producing better food, sustainable biproducts, and making them a solution to environmental problems:
Unsurprisingly, once information got out among the general public, “aquaculture” quickly became a dirty word. Industry responded with a strategy of mislabeling seafood and upping their marketing budgets, rather than investing in more sustainable and environmentally benign farming techniques.
But a small group of ocean farmers and scientists decided to chart a different course. Rather than relying on mono-aquaculture operations, these new ocean farms are pioneering muti-tropic and sea-vegetable aquaculture, whereby ocean farmers grow abundant, high-quality seafood while improving, rather than damaging, the environment.
One of the keys? Seaweed. This type of algae, which can be used for everything from food to fertilizer, could be a major piece of creating a network of sustainable farming operations:
Seaweed farms alone have the capacity to grow massive amounts of nutrient-rich food. Professor Ronald Osinga at Wageningen University in the Netherlands has calculated that a global network of “sea-vegetable” farms totaling 180,000 square kilometers — roughly the size of Washington state — could provide enough protein for the entire world population.
The goal, according to chef Dan Barber — named one of the world’s most influential people by Time and a hero of the organic food movement — is to create a world where “farms restore instead of deplete” and allow “every community to feed itself.”
But here is the real kicker: Because they require no fresh water, no deforestation, and no fertilizer — all significant downsides to land-based farming — these ocean farms promise to be more sustainable than even the most environmentally-sensitive traditional farms.
Along with being a fantastic source of food, seaweed could be a substantial feedstock for biofuels production. A lot of research has been done on seaweed as a biofuel source, and some pioneers are beginning to farm it for energy production. And while there are no seaweed-based biofuels being produced at commercial scale, there are a lot of good reasons to continue pursuing it.
Firstly, seaweed is not a major source of food globally. And it’s also one of the fastest growing plants in the world. It can grow 9-12 feet in three months. Additionally, fifty percent of seaweed’s weight is oil, so we would theoretically only need to set aside three percent of the world’s oceans for seaweed farming to meet world energy needs.
If you compare efficiency of algae as a fuel source to other proven sources, there’s no comparison. Soy produces 40 to 50 gallons of biofuel per acre, rapeseed between 110 and 115, mustard 140, and palm oil 650. Algae, on the other hand, has the potential to produce 10,000 gallons of biofuel per acre. And most importantly, seaweed can absorb five times more carbon dioxide than land-based plants.
The Atlantic explores the potential for seaweed-based biofuels further:
Finding a clean replacement for existing biofuels is becoming increasingly urgent. A report commissioned by the European Union found biofuels from soy beans can create up to four times more climate-warming emissions than equivalent fossil fuels. Biofuels have also forced global food prices up by 75 percent — far more than previously estimated — according to a confidential World Bank study. And a recent report from the International Food Policy and Research Institute, warned that U.S. government support for corn ethanol was a major factor behind this year’s food price spikes.
Seaweed and other algae is increasingly looking like a viable substitute. About 50 percent of seaweed’s weight is oil, which can be used to make biodiesel for cars, trucks, and airplanes. Scientists at the University of Indiana recently figured out how to turn seaweed into biodiesel four times faster than other biofuels, and researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have discovered a way to use alginate extracted from kelp to ramp up the storage power of lithium-ion batteries by a factor of ten.
The Pentagon has taken a special interest in seaweed and other algae-based biofuels as well. In the words of Alan Shaffer, the Pentagon’s principal deputy director of defense research and engineering: “The beauty with algae is that you can grow it anywhere and to grow it needs to absorb carbon dioxide, so it’s not only a very effective fuel, in theory it’s also a carbon sink. That’s a pretty good deal.”
A pretty good deal indeed.
- Cole Mellino is an intern on the energy team with the Center for American Progress. Climate Progress blogger Stephen Lacey contributed to this story.