- Obama State of the Union Address 2011 [w/ VIDEO]
- Finally! A Low Cost Solar Panel that Can See in the Dark
- Solar Incentives for Commercial Rooftops Are Used-Up Early in California
- Clean Transportation Link Drop
Posted: 26 Jan 2011 07:00 AM PST
I’ve done an early read of reactions to Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address (full text) from leading green thinkers around the web. It is always interesting to see how different people with the same overall intentions view something — what they focus on can be quite different. Reflecting on and integrating some of those early reactions, as well as the speech itself, here’s my take on Obama’s State of the Union address.
Global Warming Left Out
Bryan Walsh of TIME’s Ecocentric blog notes, “Tonight’s State of the Union may be remembered as the moment when the White House stopped working on climate—and started working on energy.”
This is a big point. While we just saw the hottest year on record, Obama made no mention of it. He seems to have decided that global warming or climate change or global weirding should not be mentioned. There are a lot of reasons why he might be doing so (i.e. it has become a divided issue politically, people like to hear about solutions not problems, or it is too complicated a topic for the American public), but as Dr Joe Romm of Climate Progress notes: “These omissions were depressingly predictable (see ‘Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?‘) and thus, predictably, depressing to climate hawks.” This was a clear disappointment to those of us who see the issue as the biggest economic, quality of life, and societally existential issue of our time.
Obama’s (or his team’s) decision to not mention climate change or global warming means that a ton more people will not see its importance or validity as one of the most critical issues we must address, one of the most critical issues (probably the most critical) the world is facing.
“Clean” Energy Front and Center
While global warming was left out of the speech, clean energy was a prominent focus. In other words, while not wanting to discuss the problem, Obama was more than eager to discuss one of the key solutions.
“Clean” Energy Creates Jobs
Obama knows that clean energy creates more jobs per dollar invested than fossil fuel industries. But he also knows that the clean energy industry needs more security than it has seen for that to hold true in the future. Obama said:
This provided a clear push to finally create some form of federal energy policy… not a completely stupid mishmash of energy laws and subsidies.
American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO Denise Bode, commenting on the speech, noted (in an email):
Exactly… (I’ll get to the fossil fuel industry more in a bit).
Why the ” ” Around “Clean”
Well, the ‘ugly’ news (as Dr Romm called it) is that what Obama terms “clean” energy is a mixture of real clean energy (solar and wind), economically suicidal nuclear energy (which, debatably, is also far from clean) and not-clean coal.
Here’s more on nuclear’s financial risk from our friend Timothy Hurst of ecopolitology:
Of course, supporting these other energy supplies is perhaps the only way to get anything through a bought and bribed Congress. So, it may just be something we have to swallow if we want to tackle the environmental problems we’re facing, including the unutterable words that start with G and W.
Fossil Fuel Industries Don’t Need Any More Help
Perhaps the strongest statement in Obama’s whole speech was the following:
This is huge. This is a key to making the energy playing field just, to cutting tons of wasteful spending out of the federal budget, and to addressing… ok, I’ll say it, GLOBAL WARMING… doon, doon, doon.
Seriously, this is a key proposal that is about more than rhetoric. AWEA’s Bode writes, “On ending billions in oil industry tax subsidies and investing in ‘tomorrow's energy’: It is true that fossil fuels receive five times more in federal incentives than renewable energy. We don't believe that is in line with Americans' current priorities.”
Bryan Walsh notes:
Will it finally happen?
High-Speed Rail to Get More Support
While some extremely narrow-minded Republicans have sacrificed jobs and economic growth in their states to oppose one of Obama’s favorite topics, one also highly supported by Americans and people the world over, high-speed rail is a critical part of economic growth and solutions to help the environment. To drop support for it would have been a bad move. Obama did the opposite. He increased his support for it.
Here’s more from Obama:
This sort of investment and foresight is what made America great. It’s important that we not lose that and continue falling behind in the world economy. It’s important that we not continue ruining our quality of life with unnecessary traffic congestion, lost productiveness and money, and air and water pollution. It’s important that we not become a nation of incrementalists.
It’s good to see Obama has not lost his focus on this critical transportation solution to our numerous economic and environmental problems.
Obama is Not Going to Drop Critical Environmental Regulations (that Actually Benefit the Economy)
Yes, Republicans will tell you until their blue in the face that the EPA attacks the economy. Far from the truth. Environmental regulations create a net benefit to the economy of tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars. And, clearly, they serve a key quality of life purpose.
Who can argue with that?
Our Sputnik Moment
This is an analogy that has been circulating for awhile, because it is a good one. The U.S. is falling behind in the critical job-creating category of the future. We are at a key crossroads where we must decide to considerably boost our efforts and get on top again or risk falling further on the global economic and technological stage.
Here’s more from Obama:
More thoughts on Obama’s State of the Union speech? Share them below.
Posted: 26 Jan 2011 04:00 AM PST
Well…it can almost see in the dark. Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have just announced that they’ve been able to confirm a new high-efficiency solar cell design that handles pretty much the entire solar spectrum. To ice the solar cake, the new technology can be manufactured using ordinary low-cost processes that are currently in use.
Harnessing the Full Spectrum for Solar Power
A conventional solar cell uses one kind of semiconductor, which captures light from one part of the spectrum. The new solar cell uses different materials, stacked in layers, that respond to different wavelengths. As explained by LBL writer Paul Preuss, the trick is to use one alloy, gallium arsenide nitride, but replace some of the arsenic atoms with nitrogen to create an intermediate energy band. This third band enables the semiconductor to respond to low and mid-energy wavelengths as well as the more “energetic” parts of the spectrum.
Lowering the Cost of Full Spectrum Solar Cells
In earlier trials, the researchers used different alloys that achieved full spectrum responses but involved very high production costs. The advantage of gallium arsenide nitride is that it is very similar to a conventional semiconductor, gallium arsenide, and it can be produced with a commonly used fabrication method involving chemical vapor deposition.
Full Speed Ahead to Full Spectrum Solar Cells
The Lawrence Berkeley breakthrough represents just one path to increasing the efficiency and lowering the cost of solar cells. Over at Ohio State University, a full spectrum solar cell is also under development, and Stanford is pursuing a new technology that cuts around the problem of solar cell efficiency loss due to high temperatures. And then of course there’s low cost solar paints on the horizon, new solar cell fabrication methods, and the use of low-cost materials for concentrating solar power…well, it may be just a bit too soon to say goody-bye to “yesterday’s energy” but we’re sure on our way.
Image: Moon by r w h on flickr.com.
Posted: 25 Jan 2011 12:23 PM PST
But the budget ceiling has now just been hit for all non-residential rooftops, according to DSIRE, for Pacific Gas & Electricity and San Diego Gas & Electric customers, and the 10 year solar incentives program will end five years early, instead of in 2016, for these customers. Only Southern California Edison still has non-residential incentives left.
In 2006, with the signing of SB 1, then-Governor Schwarzenegger’s Million Solar Roofs Initiative, CSI budgeted $3.2 billion to supply 3 Gigawatts of solar to the California grid off of California rooftops in ten years, by 2016, disbursing the rebates through the largest California electric utilities, PG&E and SDG&E, and SCE.
All solar projects are eligible, but with different rates, limits, and steps for residential, commercial and governmental. (Public schools, non-profits or churches, for example, that are not eligible to take a Federal tax credit, get higher rebates.)
The program covers not only PV, but solar for space heating, and rooftop solar thermal used to provide hot water, radiant heat or air conditioning, as long as the technology can meet the requirements of the very thoroughly tested CEC list of eligible solar equipment.
For all the non-residential applicants in PG&E and SDG&E territories, which includes commercial and industrial and governmental and non-profit customers, this ends the popular rebate program. In case some projects drop out, both utilities are accepting some new applications on a waiting list.
Last year, a similar cut-off was threatened in residential rooftop solar projects. The previous limit of “2.5 % of peak power demand” ceiling was in danger of being exceeded, by rooftop solar. After passionate lobbying by solar groups, the limit was raised to allow up to 5% of peak power demand be met by homeowners’ rooftop solar installations.
The commercial program was to have run till 2016. Instead, all the non-residential solar incentives have run out in two of the three main utility districts.
Will there be a last minute save? I am usually contacted before these kinds of dire events by groups like the NRDC or SEIA or Solar Nation. But I have not heard anything about this from them. Have you?
Image: Solar Server
Posted: 25 Jan 2011 11:25 AM PST
This is actually an idea my dad had a few years ago. I figured at that time someone was probably working on it, but had never heard of such a plan.
It’s 2011, where’s your self-driving car? With “road train” technology, now in development by Volvo, it could be the car you already own. Road trains, or platoons, create semi-autonomous conga lines of cars following one leader vehicle with a professional driver. Volvo’s calling the project SARTRE — Safe Road Trains for the Environment. (You can exit, though — cars can leave the train at any time.) But what are the real environmental effects?…
Public transit saves us money, whether we ride it or not… but more savings to those who ride it.
Rising Gas Prices Allow Public Transit Riders to Ring in the New Year with an Average Savings of $805 This Month and $9,656 Annually
Washington, DC- 2011 begins with rising gas prices and predictions they will go even higher as we move further into the new year. These predictions coupled with the release of The American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) monthly "Transit Savings Report" highlight the increasing benefits of switching from driving to riding public transportation. The report notes that riding public transportation saves individuals, on average $9,656 annually, and up to $805 per month based on the January 5, 2011 average national gas price ($3.08 per gallon-reported by AAA) and the national unreserved monthly parking rate….
The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) today released its highly regarded congestion report, 2010 Urban Mobility Report, which looked at road congestion in 439 United States urban areas. As in past years, the data overwhelmingly shows the importance of public transportation in relieving congestion. In fact, the report's improved methodology indicates that public transportation has an even greater role in reducing congestion than previously thought.
The 2010 Urban Mobility Report makes clear that without public transportation services, travelers would have suffered an additional 785 million hours of delay and consumed 640 million more gallons of fuel. Had there been no public transportation service available in the 439 urban areas studied, congestion costs for 2009 would have risen by nearly $19 billion from $115 to $134 billion. (See the table below for the top 36 urban areas.)…
High-Speed Rail & Intercity Bus Lines
Some in-depth articles on why high-speed rail is good as well as other news.
Crippled by economic depression and environmental catastrophe, the American dream is dead in the water. And with peak oil hot on its hyperconsuming heels, America is looking for solutions, and it may have found a good one in the form of an ambitious national high-speed rail network that would connect its metropoles and mid-size cities together in green solidarity. Better late than never….
The Jan. 12 editorial “Hit the brakes,” criticizing California’s high-speed rail plan, was shortsighted and parochial. If President Dwight D. Eisenhower had waited until he had all the cash on hand, all the lines drawn on a map and all the naysayers on board, America wouldn’t have an interstate highway system. We stand at a similar crossroads today when it comes to high-speed rail….
California has secured billions in federal funding for its statewide network of high-speed rail corridors. Late last year it scooped up an extra $624 million from the unwanted rail projects in Ohio and Wisconsin. By next year construction will begin on the first segment, a 65-mile stretch running from Madera to Bakersfield through Fresno. So everything is golden in the golden state, right?
Not if you live in Burlingame, where officials are furious that current plans call for the rail to ride above ground, rather than through tunnels. And not if you live in Corcoran, either, where the New York Times reports the same fear holds true, according to city manager Ronald W. Hoggard:…
Nearly 100 high-speed train stations will be built across Turkey for accommodation of high-speed trains.
The train stations will be presented to auction with build-operate-transfer model….
For the third year in a row, "intercity bus service was the fastest growing mode of intercity transportation, outpacing air and rail transportation," says a report released by DePaul University, called "The Intercity Bus: America's Fastest Growing Transportation Mode," by Joseph P. Schwieterman and Lauren Fischer….
A new development, owned by Equity Residential, in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood of Washington, D.C. will now have an electric car charging station in its garage. Launched in conjunction with Car Charging Inc. the location appears to be "the first such charging station in a residential building parking garage in the area," says District blogger Richard Layman of Rebuilding Place In The Urban Space. The location is 425 Massachusetts Ave. in Northwest Washington….
Survey finds 53 per cent of motorists considering electric or hybrid car as next purchase….
Recently, a slew of reports have surfaced suggesting that many of China’s automakers are scaling back development of alternative energy vehicles. Specifically, reports indicate that weak consumer interest is forcing Chinese automakers to ditch plans to manufacture electric vehicles. With that in mind, it’s surprising, at least to some degree, to stumble upon news indicating that China is forging forward with plans to install perhaps millions of plug-in vehicle charging stations within the next decade….
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Chrysler Group is working on a new hybrid minivan that doesn’t use batteries or electric motors to drive it, the automaker announced with the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday….
On the surface electric cars seem simple, but the motors and batteries are actually made from rare earth elements subject to supply disruption. But Toyota is working on an electric motor that doesn't use these rare metals….
Clean Transport City
Not on your list of places to see? Maybe it should be!
The city of Guangzhou, China today won the 2011 Sustainable Transport Award for its new world-class bus rapid transit (BRT) system that integrates with bike lanes, bike share and metro stations. The annual award created by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy goes to a city that made the most progress over the year to increase mobility, while reducing transportation greenhouse and air pollution emissions and improving safety and access for cyclists and pedestrians….
Photo Credit: caribb
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