Looking to a Brighter Clean Energy Future in 2013

2012 was a trying year for climate activists. Little progress on has been made on climate change mitigation domestically or internationally. President Obama passed regulation regarding fuel efficiency standards, but has otherwise failed to seriously address the problem of our warming planet. All of this inaction comes on the heels of some of the most compelling evidence in support of climate change to date. November 2012 is the 333rd straight month of warmer than average global temperatures. Arctic sea ice reached its lowest recorded level, with an area the size of Texas subtracted from 2007’s previous low. The area destroyed by wildfires is expected to double by 2050. And 2012 is nearly assured to be the hottest year on record, according to NOAA. Climate change deniers are finding it harder to defend their stance, but there continues to be a lack of initiative from important governing bodies. Congress is not advancing pollution regulation or clean energy initiatives that will help steer our economy away from dirty and costly fossil fuels. These companies receive generous government subsidies and subsequently produce incredible amounts of toxic and planet-warming byproducts that deteriorate the health and safety of our country. International climate negotiations have stalled too, as seen at the recent COP 18 event that produced few substantive results. President Obama has promised to make climate change a priority in his next four years, but given his previous record, it will be hard to take […]

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Clean Energy Victory Bonds: The Path to an American Renewable Energy Revolution

Over the past decade, the United States has seen its advantage in the clean energy sector go from substantial to non-existent. Though America was one of the first nations to embrace the idea of solar power (think Jimmy Carter and his PV panels on the White House), political opposition kept renewable energy technologies from making a significant impact on our national energy portfolio. But while lawmakers here were debating the merits of renewable energy, countries across the globe, particularly in Europe, began to take notice and build their own clean energy industries. Over the course of 2012, Germany, Spain and Italy have all been producing over 20 percent of their electricity from renewables, while the United States continues to hover around 6 percent. Germany in particular has dominated the renewable energy discussion, thanks in large part due to their Renewable Energies Act which went into effect in 2000. Since then, Germany has incrementally increased their solar, wind and biomass efforts that now compromise 25 percent of their total electricity use. They have their sights set on producing 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, indicating their willingness to pursue ambitious energy goals. Progressive policies and firm leadership are spurring Germany’s clean energy growth. Feed-in tariffs ensure that all renewable energy transmitted to the grid gets used, ensuring that there is a fixed price for these energy sources in an otherwise volatile industry. This price security enables renewable companies […]

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The Key to Slowing Climate Change? Use Less Energy!

We have already covered the benefits of wind, solar, geothermal and electric cars in this blog space. But perhaps the most effective and inexpensive method to reducing our climate impacts is actually the simplest: improving energy efficiency standards. By making products and buildings that consume less energy, we can help reduce the amount of greenhouse gases needed to meet our energy needs. Energy efficiency improvements are particularly important because they have been proven to reduce energy demand while also saving the consumer money. A recent analysis from Platts indicated that simply changing to more energy efficient air conditioners throughout the country could save $2.5 billion in energy costs annually and preclude the need for seven new mid-size power plants. The implementation of LEED certification for buildings has also saved billions in energy costs while also allowing property owners to charge more to rent space in these buildings. But almost all tenants end up spending less money renting these buildings because of decreased electric and water bills. Multiple studies have shown that these efficiency technologies end up paying for themselves rather quickly, and people are beginning to realize the benefits. Even the Republican-controlled House recently passed legislation to improve standards for water heaters, refrigerators and air conditioners. The measure was sponsored by two Republicans and had backing from major industry institutions. Most of the support can be attributed to the demonstrated ability of energy efficiency measures to save money. Energy Secretary […]

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Geothermal: The clean energy powerhouse you’ve never heard of

Geothermal Plant

Everyone knows about renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines, but few know the details about one of the most abundant clean energy resources available: geothermal power. Geothermal electricity is generated by extracting heat from up to 2 miles below the surface and converting it into useable power. The United States produced 3,086 megawatts (MW) of geothermal electricity […]

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Electric Vehicles Going Mainstream?

        Although electric vehicles have been around for decades, they have yet to make a huge impact in the competitive market. Gas guzzlers continue to dominate the roadways despite the fact that electric cars can save drivers thousands of dollars a year in fuel costs. They have been proven to be just as safe, reliable and affordable as other cars, yet there has yet to be a true electric vehicle revolution in the United States. However, two recent articles show that the market may soon start shifting towards electric over gas. The two main arguments against electric vehicles are their unfair reputation as slow, expensive and weak cars and the lack of charging stations available for long distance driving. Articles from Motor Trend and the Huffington Post, respectively, have helped disprove these myths and point towards a bright future for electric cars. In the January 2013 edition of Motor Trend, the magazine will name the Tesla Model S the car of the year. This marks the first time in their 64 year history that they will give the award to a car without an internal combustion engine and signals that public stereotypes against electric vehicles are becoming less prevalent. Motor Trend touts the impressive horsepower and torque of the Tesla, while also praising the storage space, sleek design and on-board navigation system. The Model S passed or exceeded all safety tests and was found to have a range of up […]

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Hurricane Sandy raises the issue that is absent from the campaigns

It is only November and we have already experienced five major climatic abnormalities that have been at the forefront of discussion across America. Since the beginning of this year, wildfires have burned through an area the size of Maryland. On August 14th 2012, 25 percent of the land area of the lower 48 states was experiencing extreme or exceptional drought (which in turn knocked off 0.4 percentage points from third quarter GDP growth). Arctic sea ice melted to the lowest levels ever recorded. And most recently, a late season hurricane swept across the East Coast and caused billions of dollars of damage that will take weeks or months to recover from. Unsurprisingly, the problem at the root of these events is related to one simple factor that we have known about for years: a warming climate. The first nine months of the year have been the hottest the United States has ever experienced. A recent opinion piece in the Washington Post highlights these starting events and notes that while these events are not a direct result of how much CO2 we are emitting this year (which is actually on pace to be the lowest total in 20 years), the fact that we continue to affect the climate with greenhouse gases is making the atmosphere more unstable and prone to natural disasters. Studies have shown that continuing to pollute our atmospheres will make drought and wild fires more frequent and severe. Global […]

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There’s No Debate: Clean Energy Is the True Path to Energy Security

In last night’s debate, Governor Romney and President Obama both responded to a question regarding high gas prices by talking about the need to create more energy in the United States.  To the extent that their answers (particularly Governor Romney’s) highlighted increased fossil fuels production in the US as a solution, the American public was misled.  In reality, the only way the United States is going to get stable energy prices, and true energy security, is by increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy in the US. Increasing domestic oil drilling and production is meaningless to energy security, since oil is traded on a global market, and the US can’t do much to control its price.  Increased drilling also risks more catastrophic oil spills, increases greenhouse gas emissions, and keeps us addicted to oil (which will undermine our long-term energy security).  Increasing other fossil fuels, such as natural gas and coal, is also short-sighted, since both are finite, and the economic (and environmental) damage of using them exceeds any benefits.  Only renewable energy promises true energy security, since no one can own the sun, the wind, and the tides.  Paired with energy efficiency, which could reduce our overall consumption dramatically, renewable energy can pave the way for a truly sustainable economy. However, while the pathway for energy efficiency and clean energy has been looking increasingly bright over the past decade, the future of these crucial technologies is now in jeopardy. Since […]

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Bernie Sanders and Tom Coburn agree on something: Clean energy matters to the US

It’s not often that Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a very liberal member of the Senate, and Republicans like Charles Grassley,  John Thune, and Tom Coburn  agree, but one thing they clearly agree on is the need for more clean energy in the United States, and that the US Government needs to play a role in developing it. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), member of the committees for both energy and the environment, recently wrote an article for environmental non-profit Grist which was posted on their website this morning. In the article, Senator Sanders details the current problems with energy subsidies in the United States and suggests that more funding for wind and solar, along with less funding for oil and gas, would go a long way towards securing our energy future. Though green energy has become politicized leading up to the election with talk of the government picking energy “winners and losers,”  Senator Sanders stresses the need for Congress (Democrats and Republicans) to act in support of these important advances in clean energy technology. Senator Sanders starts by pointing out the major flaw behind the “picking winners and losers” argument; namely that it is actually big fossil fuel and nuclear companies that are receiving the bulk of government funding when it comes to energy. According to the nonpartisan Joint committee on Taxation, $113 billion in federal subsidies will be handed out to fossil fuel companies over the next decade. This comes on […]

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Surprise: Clean Energy Benefits Red States Most

Clean Edge recently posted an article by Clint Wilder describing the increasing levels of bipartisan support for clean energy technology in the past few months. One of the main pieces of evidence used to support this claim is a report from DBL Investors titled “Red, White and Green: The True Colors of America’s Clean Tech Jobs.” Many liberal members of Congress have been vocal in their support of clean energy for years, but the report states that it is in fact traditionally conservative states in the west and south that are quickly becoming champions of clean energy projects. Of the top 10 states with the fastest growth in clean tech jobs between 2003 and 2010, four states (Alaska, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming) are solidly conservative and four more (Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and North Carolina) have strong conservative influences. The driving factor behind this shift is the job benefits that the clean energy industry has created. All of these states have created thousands of competitive jobs through wind, solar and biomass plants, which in turn helps boost the economy. Having thousands of new, well-paying jobs is especially important in a tumultuous economic time such as this, which is why state representatives have jumped at the chance to use the renewable energy resources found in their own backyards. Clint Wilder then points out that is a shame that Mitt Romney and most of the GOP are not supporting the extension […]

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