Category Archives: energy future

>Wave Of The Future

>As more American auto manufacturing moves south of the border, this is indeed welcome news for stricken communities like Detroit:

WIXOM, Mich. (WXYZ) – Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr. and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm are unveiling plans to redevelop the shuttered Wixom Assembly plant into a giant renewable energy park.

The ceremony will include officials from Xtreme Power and Clairvoyant Energy. The new complex will be involved in building storage batteries, solar panels and wind turbines.

The companies have said they will buy and renovate the 320-acre site if state tax incentives and federal loans are approved. The state house approved the tax breaks last week. The Senate could pass them as early as today.

The new facility is expected to revitalize the area surrounding the plant, which was hit hard when Ford closed it in 2007. It is expected to employ at thousands of ‘green’ jobs.

More like this, please. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover!

China has positioned itself to capitalize on the Green Revolution:

Chinese factories already make a third of the world’s solar cells – six times more than America. Next year, China will become the largest market in the world for wind turbines – overtaking America. This fall, a Chinese firm will launch the world’s first mass-produced all-electric car of this century. And where are American utilities buying the latest generation of “clean coal” power stations? China.

You know, it’s bad enough that we get our cheap plastic Wal Mart crap from China. But the last thing we need to do is become dependent on China for our energy. That’s trading one bad apple for another.

The sun shines and the wind blows in America. We should be making the components to harness this green energy here at home, too.

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Filed under economy, energy future, energy production, environment

>New Energy vs Old Energy

>This is hilarious. And now I have a wonderful new excuse for the bump on my head that is now a black eye.

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Filed under energy future, solar energy

>Tennessee Tea

>Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Greg:

Eastern Indiana Man Taps Into Backyard Oil Well

SELMA, Ind. — An eastern Indiana man is capitalizing on high crude oil prices with a backyard oil well that produces three barrels of crude a day.

Greg Losh said the oil his well produces comes from the Trenton oil field that fueled the growth of east-central Indiana cities more than a century ago.

He said it costs about $100,000 to drill an oil well, but that at today’s oil prices, it’s worth it.

There goes the neighborhood.

Okay, let’s do the math: three barrels a day at $129/barrel is about $14,000 a year, which means he’ll have paid off his well in …. a little more than seven years a year.

I guess that’s not too terribly bad, considering the well also produce natural gas which he uses to heat his home. Oh, wait:

Greg Losh’s rig produces three barrels of crude oil a day, though he told FOX News that he hasn’t started selling it yet. For now, he and his partners are keeping it in storage containers.

Geez, dude, what are you waiting for? Some “Max Max”-dystopia where it’s kill or be killed for the juice? And you have partners? So that $14G isn’t even all yours? Yikes. Doesn’t seem worth it to me.

This story got me thinking, though. I have an oil well in my backyard. Well, technically, it’s on my roof. I could put a solar array on my roof, power my home, and sell what’s left to NES. There’s already a framework in place to buy this energy through NES’ Generation Partners program. I may not get $14,000 a year for my troubles, it’s true, but then it wouldn’t cost me anywhere near $100,000 to install, either. Plus, I wouldn’t have to look at this out my kitchen window.

On top of that, I’d be generating clean energy and helping build the new energy economy. I don’t have to pay to store or haul barrels of crude, and I don’t ever have to worry about my well running dry.

I think if I were our friend Greg I’d leave the oil in the ground and invest in solar panels on the roof. Just sayin’ ….

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Filed under energy future, environment, peak oil, solar energy

Rockefellers Urge ExxonMobil To Go Green

There’s been an amazing development in the Corporate Overlord department this week, one mentioned little in the press since it doesn’t concern flag pins or rabid preacher types. However, it does concern America’s energy future, so I hope we’re all paying attention.

In short, it looks like one of America’s oldest dynasties is trying to put the fear of God in ExxonMobil:

Members of the Rockefeller family took a fight with Exxon Mobil Corp. public Wednesday, challenging the oil giant spawned by John D. Rockefeller to split the roles of chairman and chief executive and focus more on renewable energy.



The family members, who call themselves the company’s longest continuous shareholders, said they are concerned that Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil is too focused on short-term gains from soaring oil prices and should do more to invest in cleaner technology.
 Separating the leadership roles, they argue, would better position the company for challenges to come.


”They are fighting the last war and they’re not seeing they’re facing a new war,” said Peter O’Neill, the great-great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller who heads the family committee dealing with Exxon Mobil.

Wow. Let me offer a hearty round of applause–and thanks–to the Rockefeller family. The Rockefellers have sponsored four proxy resolutions–all of which the Board of Directors recommend a vote “against,” I might add–which would push the company in a green direction.

Frankly, being the indoctrinated little capitalist that I am, I always assumed ExxonMobil, Chevron and the rest would have led us to our new energy future by now, seeing as how their own futures depend on it (in fact, I wrote about it here).

That they haven’t is extremely disappointing to me. Call it my wake-up to the ways of the world, akin to learning there is no Santa Claus: corporations are only focused on short-term profits, I now realize; the long-term is someone else’s problem (a philosophy echoed by our “MBA President,” I might add). Just look at GM and Ford over the past 20 years: at least where American corporate giants are concerned, short-sightedness is a feature, not a bug.

Anyway, shareholder resolutions are notoriously ineffective, since most are non-binding, so even if a resolution gets passed the board can still do what it wants anyway. I tend to vote for them regardless, especially the ones related to executive compensation and human rights or environmental issues. The board needs to know how we feel.

But the Rockefeller resolutions are especially powerful, since they have become so public. ExxonMobil is in a sense the Rockefeller family business, so this is a very public smackdown of a corporation that continues to rake in obscene profits: another $11 billion in the first quarter of this year, in fact.

That’s billion, with a “B.” Profit, not gross.

One gets the sense that the ExxonMobil folks are pigs feeding at the trough, instead of corporate leaders guiding America into her new energy future.

When we aren’t debating lame-brain ideas like summer “gas tax holidays” or drilling in a national wildlife refuge with so few oil reserves even Big Oil isn’t interested, we’re toppling unfriendly Middle Eastern dictators. Does this make sense to anyone?

Meanwhile, European countries are jumping to the front of the technology line. Thomas Friedman shared this dire news in Wednesday’s column:

While all the presidential candidates were railing about lost manufacturing jobs in Ohio, no one noticed that America’s premier solar company, First Solar, from Toledo, Ohio, was opening its newest factory in the former East Germany — 540 high-paying engineering jobs — because Germany has created a booming solar market and America has not.

In 1997, said Resch, America was the leader in solar energy technology, with 40 percent of global solar production. “Last year, we were less than 8 percent, and even most of that was manufacturing for overseas markets.”

There is money to be made in alternative energy, and jobs to be created. But President Bush and the Republicans in the Senate wouldn’t even extend solar and wind energy tax credits, although they left the ones for oil and gas.

With $11 billion in profits for one quarter, why the hell do the oil companies need tax credits? This makes no sense. Our utter lack of leadership in Washington will have dire repercussions for years to come.

Maybe proposals like the Rockefellers’ will have some impact. For heaven’s sake, no one would confuse them with a bunch of tie-dye wearing, pot-smoking hippies, right?

For crying out loud, we have to get off the oil tit. America’s future depends on it. Do we really want to be the Portugal of the new millenium?

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Filed under energy future, ExxonMobil, oil industry, Rockefellers, stockholder proposals

>Solar: The Future’s So Bright

>Newsflash: oil is over. It’s history. It’s finished. Get over it, people, it’s time to move on.

Twenty years ago I thought the oil companies would have to invest in alternative energy. It just seemed like the logical business move, what with oil running out and all. Silly me. What was I thinking? They’re oil companies, not energy companies. They’re scrambling after the last remaining scraps of a vanishing resource, like a flock of pigeons fighting over a lone saltine. It’s terribly short-sighted, but absolutely predictable. I was dumb to think they’d do anything else.

So we’re going to have to look elsewhere for new ideas. The oil companies aren’t going to do it, and the oil men in Washington who run our government aren’t going to do it.

The good news is, there’s a lot out there, and I thought I’d share some of what I’ve found in the next few blog posts.

1Watt in comments on the No Nukes thread shared this Scientific American article from January on A Solar Grand Plan. It proposes

A massive switch from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power plants to solar power plants [which] could supply 69 percent of the U.S.’s electricity and 35 percent of its total energy by 2050.

Great! (Read the article for the details, BTW). But making this transition will come at a price:

The federal government would have to invest more than $400 billion over the next 40 years to complete the 2050 plan. That investment is substantial, but the payoff is greater. Solar plants consume little or no fuel, saving billions of dollars year after year. The infrastructure would displace 300 large coal-fired power plants and 300 more large natural gas plants and all the fuels they consume.

The plan would effectively eliminate all imported oil, fundamentally cutting U.S. trade deficits and easing political tension in the Middle East and elsewhere. Because solar technologies are almost pollution-free, the plan would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 1.7 billion tons a year, and another 1.9 billion tons from gasoline vehicles would be displaced by plug-in hybrids refueled by the solar power grid. In 2050 U.S. carbon dioxide emissions would be 62 percent below 2005 levels, putting a major brake on global warming.

I’m sure the notion of $400 billion in subsidies for solar energy over 40 years strikes fear in the heart of conservatives, but why not? Even by the most conservative estimates, the Iraq War will cost us $700 billion in direct spending alone. That’s a pretty nice subsidy for the oil industry.

The best news is, this is already happening. We don’t need the Federal government because private companies are already building large solar farms in the Southwest. Check out this plan for Phoenix:

Today, Arizona’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service, is announcing plans to build the world’s largest “concentrating solar power” plant, a $1 billion project to spread parabolic mirrors over a 3-mile-square stretch of desert 70 miles southwest of Phoenix. To be designed and built by the Spanish firm Abengoa, it would generate 280 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 70,000 homes.

That makes it four times as large as Nevada Solar One, near Boulder City, Nev., which last summer became the first CSP plant to open in the United States in more than 17 years. Tomorrow, Nevada Solar One’s developer, a rival Spanish company, Acciona, plans a star-studded dedication ceremony for the facility …

[…]

Unlike the solar energy that most people know, CSP doesn’t use expensive semiconductor material to transform the sun’s energy into electricity. CSP relies on mirrors to focus sunlight onto a heat transfer fluid, which in turn heats water into steam, which turns turbines to generate power. The big Arizona plant, which will be called Solana Generating Station, will take the technology an exciting step forward by using molten salt to store solar energy for up to six hours. “When the suns sets, this plant keeps on ticking,” says Arizona Public Service President Don Brandt. “We’ll have solar energy in the dark.”

What is wrong with American companies? Why are European companies so far ahead of us on this stuff?

There’s a new energy future coming and America is going to be left in the dust because we’ve focused all of our attention on oil. How stupid is that?

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