Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bringing Clean Energy Technologies to Market

The opposition enjoys throwing failures like Solyndra in the face of sustainability. Never mind them.

A vibrant clean energy industry is already growing in the United States with government investment. More is needed and with a few tweaks to the system, smart government support would be more successful, according to Forbes. Some key points and excerpts from a recent article by Jesse Jenkins follow.

A clean energy industry is here and needed.

"First, the global energy system is modernizing and diversifying. For an array of motivations from public health and climate change to security and economic growth, today’s economies demand a 21st century suite of clean and reliable energy technologies to supply the $5 trillion-and-growing global energy market."

Government support is needed.

"While the Loans Program Office falls short in some areas, we must not forget the reason it was originally established, with strong support from both parties, by the Energy Policy Act of 2005: American entrepreneurs face a persistent challenge in securing adequate financing to demonstrate and commercialize promising advanced energy technologies, a market barrier that must be addressed by smart and effective public policy."

A revamped loan program that would become a new investment agency would be an improvement over the current program. This has already been discussed on both sides of the aisle.

"Under the leadership of Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the proposed investment agency has already been well vetted. The program has the support of leading venture capitalists, American energy companies, and the U.S. Chamber of Congress. And it received bipartisan votes of confidence from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in both the 111th and 112th Congresses.

The time to act is now. American entrepreneurs and businesses need Congressional policymakers to stop playing politics and focus on the key reforms needed to ensure clean and affordable advanced energy technologies can be readily brought to market.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Renewable Power Plants Up

The small victories add up. According to Climate Progress, renewables recently edged fossils in new power plant investments.

"Electricity from the wind, sun, waves and biomass drew $187 billion last year compared with $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal, according to calculations by Bloomberg New Energy Finance using the latest data. Accelerating installations of solar- and wind-power plants led to lower equipment prices, making clean energy more competitive with coal."

The sooner we get off carbon, the better.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks on the Edge

I try to give thanks by honoring the oceans and beauty in the natural world here and a few other places. But that all just becomes cyber babble, right?

Just go to the sand, stand on the edge, the place where water meets land, and feel the gift.

Or remember that moment, perhaps the first or most recent visit to the sea. It has staying power, doesn't it? That's what I'm thankful for on this holiday.Well, that and great friends and family and food on the table and shoes on my feet. Oh yeah, and sea turtles. And sea horses and manatees and waves. So awesome.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ocean Champions Winning the Trenches

Ocean Champions just scored a bevy of victories with the federal government, yes, that federal government. This is simply great news from the trenches, I mean the real trenches. Way to go Ocean Champions.

Here is their newsletter verbatim about their recent wins:

Lots of good things come in threes. Three in a row of anything seems like a big achievement.  There’s the Triple Crown in horse racing (and, more importantly, in pro surfing), and of course, the Hanson brothers from the movie Slapshot.  Today, we wanted to update you on three important ocean wins your support has helped make happen.

One: For months, a nasty campaign has been carried out to block the  “catch shares” framework from being used in any more U.S. fisheries – including those that are choosing to adopt it.  The “Jones Amendment” (named for its original sponsor, Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC)) would have been very bad for fish conservation, because quite simply, catch shares help fisheries recover and traditional approaches often do not.  Ocean Champions played a lead role in a small coalition that killed the Jones Amendment by preventing it from being included in the just-passed “Minibus” Appropriations bill at every step in the process.

Two: There was an effort afoot to attack the National Ocean Policy, and to stop NOAA from carrying out a range of related activities including marine and ocean planning in a number of coastal states through another bad amendment to the “Minibus” Appropriations bill.  Working closely with our champions as part of a coalition of ocean organizations, we helped prevent this amendment from coming up for a vote.

Three: The Senate Commerce Committee recently passed our Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia bill, making it ready for floor action in both the House and Senate.  Last year it passed the House and barely missed in the Senate, but this time around we believe it can pass both houses of Congress – stay tuned!

These wins demonstrate two important ideas.  First, the ocean community may be small, but when we work together we can get things done!  Second, Ocean Champions (with our unique relationships on Capitol Hill) is able to apply political power for the oceans to get results.  Our ability to do so comes from your support, and we are grateful!

WE are grateful. Nice work.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Elegance and Refinement of Movement

The sun is the main source of life on this planet and of course the moon moves the oceans. The fact that we can tap a little energy from these celestial bodies has a beauty to it. Phil Pauley has devised a marine solar power system based on such grace.

How much better is that than burning stuff?

Sure this is in the conceptual stage but as long as it does not negatively impact sustainable fishing or ocean life, it is the kind of innovation that will carry us

I look forward to a day when I can look up at a moon on one crisp and clear night and know that as it swings around Mother Earth, inexorably tied to her, we are a part of it. We are powering our lives. And look at that glow -- that's the sun on the other side of the planet bouncing off the orb.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Saving a Hemingway Legacy

Hemingway's grandson, John, an avid recreational fisher, and a true man in the sea, calls for sustainable fishing of billfish such as marlin, sailfish, and spearfish. He asks people to support the Billfish Conservation Act of 2011 in his Miami Herald editorial.

His personal experience provides nice inspiration to get on board:

"I remember fishing as far back as I can remember anything. Some of my fondest memories as a child are from those days trolling in the Florida Keys and beyond Bimini with my dad, reel in hand, just the two of us against the world. He loved billfishing as much as his father did before him.

Sadly, those days have long since passed, not only because I miss my dad who died in 2001, but also because the fish he and my grandfather both pursued are so diminished. Still, if we act now, we can ensure that billfish will be around for many years to come. A novel shouldn't be the only place where a child can experience the excitement and wonder of a hooked marlin leaping from the deep blue waters of the Gulf Stream in that age-old struggle between man and the sea."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Clean Energy Creates Jobs

Those opposed to developing a clean energy economy love to raise the specter of jobs -- as if burning fossil fuels and polluting the country is the necessary evil to keep us all employed.

Here is yet another expert disclaiming such nonsense. "Clean energy and energy efficiency businesses hold the potential to create thousands of new jobs and be a bright spot in today's otherwise sluggish economy," says Keith Reopelle, senior policy director for Clean Wisconsin. His comments appeared in in an article titled Clean Energy Means More Jobs.

A report released recently by the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, a Chicago-based advocacy group, says Wisconsin could create as many as 14,600 new jobs while saving utility customers up to $946 million on their electric and natural gas bills by expanding the Focus on Energy program.

This story is repeated in many US States. Cape Wind estimates that construction of its well-publicized 420-megawatt wind farm in Massachusetts will create between 600 and 1,000 jobs during the construction phase.

Meanwhile, Michael Conathan director of Oceans Policy at the Center for American Progress, said that installation phase alone of a 150-megawatt wind farm resulted in the creation of more than 800 jobs and the Department of Energy has predicted that the build out of 54 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 would result in the creation of 40,000 American jobs.

Sounds like clean energy actually creates jobs. How about them apples?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Earth's Resources Are Finite

Healthy oceans are essential to human health. 

Now researchers are developing an Ocean Health Index to put a numerical value on the connection between ocean health and human benefits, according to an article on Miller-McCune.

Some people may be appalled siting the intrinsic value of the oceans but this index seems to enhance that value not replace it. Besides, indexes are part of the language of economists and policymakers. Anyone interested in saving the oceans could surely benefit from knowing the lingo.

Two excerpts remind us, and clarify the challenges:

"We want bountiful seafood, thriving coastal communities, and gorgeous places to explore. But reaping these benefits involves tough choices. One of science’s roles is to inform decision-makers and the public about the likely consequences of decisions and remind us, whether we like it or not, that Earth’s resources are not infinite.

It is human nature to assume we can have it all. Reality, particularly with an eye toward a sustainable future, tells us that we can’t, and that tough choices lie ahead. The Ocean Health Index will help us confront those choices with open eyes."

More on the Ocean Health Index.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Funny Cause It's True

It is funny because it's PATHETIC (and sadly, true).

Jon Stewart on the Daily Show illustrates the empty rhetoric and historical failure of the US federal government to transition the wealthiest nation in the world to a clean energy economy.

Link here and laugh a little.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Clean Energy Jobs Need an Ocean Policy

A National Ocean Policy is vital to the economic and environmental health of the oceans and should be instated as soon as possible, according to Michael Conathan, director of Oceans Policy at the Center for American Progress.

His statement before the House Committee on Natural Resources lays it out in clear if not staid language. But it has to be said, and although policy is not nearly as exciting or dramatic as say, saving a sea turtle from a poacher's harpoon or throwing rancid butter at Japanese whaling ships, it is crucial.

It is about jobs and the "economic engine" of the oceans. Wind energy is a great example. 

The BBC reported that the installation phase alone of a 150-megawatt wind farm resulted in the creation of more than 800 jobs, according to Conathan. Furthermore, the Department of Energy has predicted that the build out of 54 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 would result in the creation of 40,000 American jobs.

Cape Wind estimates that construction of its well-publicized 420-megawatt wind farm in Massachusetts will create between 600 and 1,000 jobs during the construction phase.

Yet other developed countries in the world are cruising ahead of us as investors in the US are slowed by a regulatory matrix as dense as cement. 

"Today European countries have installed nearly 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind facilities, and Europe and China combined have permitted more than 40,000 megawatts of wind turbines in their oceans. The United States has permitted exactly 488 megawatts, and we have yet to break ground on our first turbine," according to Conathan.

For ten years, the Cape Winds project has dealt with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Minerals Management Service (now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, or BOEMRE), and other agencies, according to Conathan.

"Businesses simply will not invest in this industry until these issues are resolved. And until that investment comes, the employment opportunities these projects represent—in engineering, manufacturing, construction, transportation, maintenance, and other categories—will not be created."

The solution: a National Ocean Policy. As long as healthy oceans are given due consideration and respect, this is the future that we need.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chain Your Car to that Tree

After reading a concise editorial in the Seattle Times about the grim potential of ocean acidification, which is caused by climate change, a bit of levity was needed.

Happily, it came in a posted comment to the editorial :

The solution is simple:
1.plant a tree
2.chain your car to that tree.
3. when you feel that strong primitive instinct to pro-create, get a puppy.

Thanks "English Racer".

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Unintended Consequences of Stoke

Who knew catching a rad set needs greening? Last week, Rip Curl, the surfing apparel company, kicked off their World Tour competition with a litany of sustainable features.

The event was a success, especially with a veteran surfer beating back youth and wrangling waves to win it all. Congrats to Kelly Slater.

Turns out there is further opportunity to green surfing. There are toxins and waste in basic elements of surfing including sunscreen, board wax, and the boards themselves. According to Evirosurfer, 60% of coral reefs are threatened as 6 million bars of wax and 400,000 boards are manufactured each year.

Check out Envirosurfer's excellent infographic titled "The Toxicity of Surfing", and subtitled "The Unintended Consequences of Stoke". 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Let the Sun Shine

Clean energy is not a fad, or a cause or an idea. It is a business, and it is growing despite what you may have heard. 

"Venture capital investments in U.S. clean tech companies jumped 73% to $1.1 billion in the third quarter of this year compared to the same time last year", according to USA Today.

Meanwhile, the blogosphere and the tweet world is ablaze with New York Times columnist's Paul Krugman's Here Comes the Sun piece. Here he is knocking one out of the solar park:

"Let’s face it: a large part of our political class, including essentially the entire G.O.P., is deeply invested in an energy sector dominated by fossil fuels, and actively hostile to alternatives. This political class will do everything it can to ensure subsidies for the extraction and use of fossil fuels, directly with taxpayers’ money and indirectly by letting the industry off the hook for environmental costs, while ridiculing technologies like solar.

So what you need to know is that nothing you hear from these people is true.
Fracking is not a dream come true; solar is now cost-effective. Here comes the sun, if we’re willing to let it in."

And it's alright, it's all right -- George Harrison.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Eye on the Prize

Two contrasting images:

A shark in the Palau sanctuary

A shark fin market in Taiwan

We may have won some battles but we have yet to win the war.

Images: National Geographic

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rip Curl Catches the Sustainable Wave

Fun and Sustainable

Surfing seems pretty stream-lined. At the most basic it only requires a surfboard and a bathing suit. Actually, the bathing suit is not required, but it is recommended, for various reasons. But like nearly everything, there is still opportunity for surfing to catch the sustainable wave.

Rip Curl knows this and has jumped in. The water may be a rich blue color but Rip Curl's World Tour surf competition in California this November will be shades of green.

Beyond boards and board shorts, they are launching several creative initiatives to bring the benefits of sustainability to the sport. Not least of which is valet service for skateboards. Yes, that's not a typo. Bicycles of course are already accommodated but now skateboards get VIP treatment, too.

On the bigger impact side of things -- the event will be powered by biodiesel from local restaurants, nearly 90% of the waste from the event will be diverted, and the banners and flags will be recycled, also known as upcycled, into "high quality retail goods," according to the event promoters.

Also, surfboards broken during the intense wave carving in the thunderous surf will be repaired and donated to local surf organizations. Traditional sustainable practices will be applied at the event such as water stations to refill bottles and beach clean ups in and around the area.

Seems like there's even more reason to get out there and catch a wave.

Kudos to Rip Curl for making the sustainable move and to Sustainable Surfing for showing them how.