New Report Warns US Risks Losing Ground in Clean Energy

Third Way’s recent report, Fire Sale: The End of American Ownership of Clean Energy, predicts that by 2014, federal clean tech investment will drop by 75%, from $44.3 billion in 2009 to just $11.0 billion.  So what happens if the federal government really does decide to stop supporting the U.S. clean energy sector?  Well, one thing can be certain; clean energy won’t die but it will move to foreign markets. Just because U.S. clean energy investment growth has fallen short within the past five years, doesn’t mean that the market is vanishing.  “The United Kingdom has established a £15 billion Green Bank.  The China Development Bank has made available $32 billion in low-interest credit facilities to Chinese solar and wind companies.  Saudi Arabia wants to raise $109 billion for its solar industry.”  Countries like Germany and the U.K. are already coming close to doubling their clean energy use just since 2011. While other governments are building massive programs to fund clean energy, Congress claims that it can no longer fund these sorts of initiatives, stressing that if a clean energy industry fails it’s because it’s not a competitive market player.  Ironically, government funding has been used to make many other American industries “competitive players.” Between 1994 and 2009 the government provided approximately $447 billion (adjusted for inflation) in cumulative energy subsides to the oil and gas industry.  Compare that to the less than $6 billion federally invested in the clean […]

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New research demonstrates the importance of extending the Production Tax Credit

A recent report from the Department of Energy announced very strong growth in the US wind energy market in 2011. This growth includes $14 billion in new investments, which produced 6,800 MW of additional power to the grid. The current wind power capacity in the US is 50,000 MW (enough to power 13 million homes) and six states now get over 10% of their electricity from wind power. The wind industry has also provided thousands of jobs to hard working Americans, with nearly 70% of wind power equipment being provided by American manufacturers. More and more reports are demonstrating the progress of wind power, and much of that is due to the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), which provides a tax credit to wind producers in the United States. However, the PTC is set to expire at the end of the year and it remains to be seen whether or not Congress will renew it. Projections indicate that almost half of the 75,000 wind industry jobs would be lost if the PTC expires. States like Iowa, Texas, California, Illinois and Oregon, which all have over 2,500 MW of wind capacity installed, would be crushed by these potential job losses. Opponents of the PTC are hoping to foster more “competition” between energy sources, which would inevitably lead to the cheapest and dirtiest sources of fuel (like coal tar sands) being used to power our economy. These opponents also fail to […]

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Clean Energy Victory Bonds introduced as legislation!

The campaign for Clean Energy Victory Bonds has made an exciting leap forward! Representative Bob Filner (D-CA) and 10 cosponsors introduced HR 6275, the Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2012, to the House of Representatives.  The bill is supported by Green America and already has over 40 institutional endorsers  and thousands of individual supporters as well. Clean Energy Victory Bonds (CEVBs) are proposed U.S. Treasury bonds modeled after Victory Bonds sold during the First and Second World Wars.  During World War II, 85 million Americans purchased Victory Bonds that generated $185 billion (over $2 trillion in today’s dollars) for the war effort.  Today, in the search for new clean energy sources, America faces the same sense of urgency to find a national solution.  Through the same patriotism demonstrated during WWII, CEVBs would allow Americans to invest billions of dollars in clean energy.  All Americans could participate in this investment towards the future of clean energy, energy independence, and job creation as the bonds could be available for as little as $25. CEVBs would extend the US Government’s support for clean energy programs that have created hundreds of thousands, or even millions of jobs, and dramatically increased clean energy installations nationwide.   Unfortunately, these government programs are expiring or already expired. For example, the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which has been a major driver of wind power in the US, is about to expire this year. CEVBs would allow for the […]

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Is Wind Power Dangerous?

Recently, Green America posted an action to our website, encouraging members of the public to ask Congress to extend the Production Tax Credit (PTC), a program which has helped wind power rapidly grow in the United States.  Several people wrote to us, questioning whether we should be promoting wind power due to its impacts on birds, forests, and humans. We have looked into the impacts of wind power versus other sources of energy through the years, and repeatedly found that wind power has far lower environmental impacts than traditional sources of energy (fossil fuels and nuclear power), and that the impacts of wind power continue to decline, as turbine designs improve, and the turbines are better situated.  Here’s what we’ve found: Bird fatalities:  While, wind turbines do cause bird fatalities, these are lower than fatalities caused by other human activities.  The rates of fatalities caused by turbines vary greatly across the country, and can be related to the relative abundance of species, as well as the type of turbines in use and how they are sited. However, it is important to note that the impacts of wind turbines on birds are often overstated, and are much lower than fatalities caused by other human activities. A 2007 report from the National Academies of Science found that bird fatalities from wind power are much lower than from other anthropogenic sources, and found that turbines have little or no impact on bird populations […]

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Chase and Wells Fargo: giving you more reasons to break up

This week, megabanks gave their customers yet more reasons to break up with them and support community investing institutions instead. JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon answered questions in front of the Senate Banking Committee yesterday, and admitted that his bank made mistakes regarding billions of dollars of losses from trades.  Dimon has even admitted that some of the activity involved may have been illegal.  The Senate Banking Committee unfortunately went pretty light on Mr. Dimon.  That’s a shame, because as Richard Eskow points out in the Huffington Post, Dimon’s action raises a number of troubling issues, including: 1) why is Mr. Dimon on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, when his firm is benefitting greatly from this entity?  Isn’t that a major conflict of interest?; 2) Doesn’t Mr. Dimon owe his shareholders an apology for going along with risky practices when he has a duty under Sarbanes Oxley to ensure that the bank’s risk mitigation strategies are sound?; and  3) since Chase has been implicated in foreclosure fraud, shouldn’t they be making a commitment to helping America’s many homeowners who are underwater? In addition, JP Morgan Chase’s recent losses raise the significant question of why is Chase (as well as other megabanks) gambling with FDIC-insured dollars?  As William Greider points out in The Nation, banking reform should have ended the practice of banks gambling with FDIC-insured funds.  But, banks and their regulators have […]

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Fast Company: A leader in using recycled paper

Fast Company magazine is at the forefront of business innovation and progress, so it’s no surprise that they use recycled paper – an environmentally sustainable decision that sets them apart from the majority of the magazine industry. “Fast Company: Obstacles and Opportunities” gives an in-depth look into how this magazine is leading the way in eco-friendly print publishing.  In our 3-minute video from the Better Paper Project, Fast Company’s Managing Editor, Allegra Lagani, shares how her magazine transitioned to recycled paper and improved its reputation with its readers and advertisers. In the video, Allegra comments, “Sustainability is one of the core areas that Fast Company focuses on, so in order to practice what we preach, we need to use recycled paper.” The process of switching to recycled paper taught Fast Company that the myths about recycled paper being lower quality than virgin paper are no longer true. As Allegra said, “I think a lot of the limitations are from years ago before the world of recycled paper had been explored.” If the entire North American magazine industry included a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer recycled paper in their publications, we would save:     Over 10 million trees     7 billion gallons of wastewater and     Over 1.5 billion pounds of CO2 (the equivalent of removing over 160,000 cars from the road). While 97% of the magazine industry still uses virgin fiber paper, Fast Company provides progressive business leaders with engaging […]

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Do No Harm?

Sometimes a statement in the media really catches your attention.  For me, it was the following: “When policymakers look for new ways to add jobs to the economy, they need to remember the critical role that American coal is already playing in protecting our jobs and helping our economy. Just as the Hippocratic Oath compels doctors to “first, do no harm,” so, too, must our elected and appointed officials ensure that any actions they take will not harm coal and, by extension, our nation’s economy.” The statement is part of a recent article in EnergyBiz magazine by Steve Miller, President of the American Coalition of Clean Coal Electricity.  The article goes on to praise the industry for cleaning up coal-fired emissions and promising that new technologies will make coal even cleaner. What the article leaves out are the facts.  The only reason that coal is now burning cleaner at all is due to EPA regulations, which the coal industry continues to fight.  No matter how cleanly coal can be burnt, it still results in massive amounts of mountain top removal mining that devastates communities.  The coal ash that results from burning coal is stored in impoundments that threaten communities nationwide.  The list of real harms of coal to our economy and health, and the degree to which the industry opposes necessary regulations, could fill pages. As I wrote recently on this blog, coal is unique in creating the worst cost […]

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$26 Billion Settlement With Mega-Banks

Attorneys General from all 50 states recently announced a $26 billion settlement with the largest home mortgage servicers in the nation – Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Ally Financial and Wells Fargo (all which qualify for our Mega-Bank Hall of Shame) – for improper foreclosure practices.  While $26 billion sounds like a lot of money, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the fact that Americans collectively owe $700 billion more on their mortgages than their homes are now worth.  In addition, the banks can use the funds to write-down bad mortgages (which they might have done anyway).  Also, while some homeowners will see a bit of relief from the settlement (and some of the worst foreclosure practices will be curbed), millions of homeowners will still face foreclosure in the years to come.  Considering the massive harms that mega-banks caused, and the ongoing harms that resulted, the settlement starts to look puny. More needs to be done to expose fraud in the banking industry, to hold the responsible executives accountable, and to help homeowners whose lives are being wrecked by the foreclosure crisis.  As a consumer, you can play your part by closing your accounts with mega banks and shifting your funds to community development banks and credit unions instead.  Take action with our Break Up With Your Mega-Bank campaign (www.BreakUpWithYourMegaBank.org) today, and start using your savings to build communities that mega-banks so callously wrecked.

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