Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Happy and Safe Christmas to One and All!

Anyone who is stumbling upon this little blogger outpost on Christmas needs to turn off the computer and go enjoy this wonderful holiday!!!!

Back next week!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gimme, gimme, gimme.... More, more, more!!!!!

The season of gift-giving typically ends on December 26, but thanks to TARP, the long line of corprate supplicants looking for government bailouts continues to form and soon will snake around the corner of 15th and Pennsylvania in Washington, D.C., making it President Obama's problem.

What started wtih GSE's like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac quickly ballooned into a Wall Street lifeline, followed by automakers. Now homebuilders and retailers want in and, proving that no industry is too shameless to come hat-in-hand looking for a piece of the bailout pie, I give you... the ethanol industry.

Ethanol, which is an economic non-starter even in the best of times has been hurt by falling oil prices. Typically, expensive oil, coupled with massive government ethanol subsidies, give ethanol a seat at the energy table. But now, with oil prices falling, EtOH is S.O.L.
So-- with a straight face-- the industry is asking for $1 billion in short term credit and another $50 billion in loan guarantees. Even the environmental groups are balking. Unbelievable. Bah humbug.
An Ethanol Bailout? [Wall Street Journal]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sempra: 500 MW or Bust!

The Union Trib quotes Michael Allman, the CEO of Sempra Generation, saying that Sempra wants to be the first company to own and operate 500 MW of solar energy capacity. They took a small step forward yesterday when a new 10 MW solar plant in Boulder City, NV came on line.

The plant, which sits adjacent to a gas-fired Sempra plant, consists of 167,000 solar modules and is expected to generated 23.2 gigawatts per year. Power output has already been sold to PG&E through 2029 for its Northern California customers.

The write-up in the U-T makes a case for big solar plants like this one, but is silent on the need to build transmission capacity from remote locations where they are sited: "Big plants are more economical than rooftop installations, Allman said. They can be put in places like the desert, where the sun is bright and land is cheap. And installers work assembly-line style, so they are more efficient. "

To wit, the article ends with this nugget:

"None of the companies involved would discuss how much the plant costs or the price Northern California customers will pay for its electricity.

But Allman said it is more expensive than the power produced next door by burning natural gas."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Inside the Beltway Pundits Still Fixated on California

The notion of California as the template for Barack Obama's energy plans continues to gain credibility. Today, Politico, the once upstart pundit sheet that seems well on its way to surpassing Roll Call and The Hill as the "must-read rag" in Washington, D.C., has a detailed breakdown of the California model.

Erika Lovely frames her piece with this BHO quote:

"“It is very important just to look at the history when it comes to the regulation of emissions in California,” Obama said when he announced the appointments. “Consistently, California has hit the bar and then the rest of the country has followed.”

For anyone mucking about on this humble little blog, there's not much new in the piece, but it is noteworthy in the sense that it continues to push California front and center-- for better or worse- in the debate in Washington.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sunrise Powerlink Approved... For Now.

The PUC voted 4-1 yesterday to approve the Sunrise Powerlink transmission project, giving heavyweights like Arnold and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who both campaigned for the project, a big win. The approval mandates an altered footpring, however, that avoids environmentally sensitive lands and runs the line along the 8 Freeway.

But the appeals to the decisionw will be flying soon--very soon. UCAN has already promised serious opposition, and the Sierra Club is quoted in the Union Trib's write-up as being opposed as well.

Sunrise is a 123-mile, $1.9 billion power-line project, which could deliver enough electricity to serve 650,000 households.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Laffer on Energy: "Take A Walk On The Supply Side"

Arthur Laffer's oped in today's Wall Street Journal is required reading.

Yes, I know... "that Arthur Laffer"-- the apostle of supply-side economics and the archetype of everything that the Republicans allegedly did wrong. But this piece on energy independence is really good.

I especially like the last line of his essay:

"Whenever California's current policies -- full of taxes and regulations that are crippling its economy -- are held up as a model, you know the speaker has a lot to learn."

However the entire thing is good reading. In a nutshell he argues that energy independence for the United States is a fantasy because it wold result in $20/gallon gas, cheap oil for the rest of the world [read: "China"], loss of American jobs, etc. He gets behind offshore drilling and nuclear power, and even gives Al Gore props for his proposal to offset a carbon tax with a dollar-for dollar payroll tax reduction or income tax reduction.

The piece is fairly short and an easy read. I recommend it highly:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Salazar Pick at Interior Has Energy Implications

President-elect Barack Obama is set to name Democratic Colorado Senator Ken Salazar to head the Interior Department. Normally considered a second-tier cabinet post, the Interior Secretary will be a major player in the national energy debate as he decides when and where oil and gas exploration and drilling can occur on federal lands, including offshore.

He's got a reputation as a renewable energy guy and has reached across the aisle before to broker compromises, most famously as a member of the Group fo 16 that tried to barter increased offshore drilling for more spending on low-carbon technology. But he also has been a thorn in the sides of oil companies, trying to get several of the majors to retrade deals on oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico that are seen as too favorable to industry.

On another note, Obama also is set to name former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack to head the Agriculture Department. Vilsack is from Iowa so he's a big-time ethanol supporter so we'll have to see how that plays out.

For more on Salazar, check out Ian Talley's piece in the Wall Street Journal:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cashing In on CARB's New Regs

Greentech media does a little digging to see who the real winners are going to be in CARB's decision to regulate diesel truck emissions. It's not clear if the piece is a celebration of environmentally friendly innovative companies or a thinly veiled conspiracy allegation, but the list of commercial interests identified in the article run the gamut from biodiesel companies to companies that manufacture heavy duty truck batteries capable of powering a rig's air conditioning system throughout the night.

GTM quotes CARB as saying, "Heavy-duty big rigs are the largest remaining source of unregulated diesel emissions, responsible for 32 percent of the smog-forming emissions and nearly 40 percent of the cancer-causing emissions from diesel mobile sources"

The cost of complying with the new regs is expected to be about $5 billion and the compliance is madatory by 2014.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Somethng Rotten in Sacramento?

Last month we posted about the proposed trash-to-energy plant in Sacramento and noted that its sounded kind of fishy that the company, U.S. Science and Technology wouldn't disclose financial information to the City Council.

Now the Sacramento Bee reports that, upon further investigation, the company's qualification appear to be a tad bit dubious.

The players behind U.S. Science and Technology, according to the Bee, include a used car salesman, a former baseball player, and the former head of a now bankrupt state trade association.

The future looks kind of dim for this one...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Peevey Proposal Making Waves

Here's an update on the post earlier this week abotu Mike Peevey's renewed push for direct access.

Today's San Francsco Chronicle has a hard-hitting editorial that bashes deregulation in general and Peevey's proposal specifically.

The knife-stabbing chorus that is the Chronicle's Editorial Board notes:

"Peevey has claimed that "direct access" is not deregulation. But experts say he's not telling Californians the truth. "This is not going to be helpful to California consumers at all. It's a total triumph of ideology over practicality," said former California PUC Commissioner Loretta Lynch. "Direct access deepened the crisis in 2000. Enron and others had lured consumers away from the utilities, but then they dumped them after the cost of power got too high. That created even more of an artificial shortage on the market."

Meanwhile, Tom Elias goes one-step further. Not content to simply bash the deregulation proposal, he's authored a slam piece on Peevey, himself, and dragged Arnold into it as well fo his decision to re-appoint Peevey to the PUC.

An excerpt from the Elias column:

"So when Schwarzenegger reappointed the current PUC president, Michael Peevey, to another term as the kingpin of what may be the most powerful agency in state government, he was determining part of his legacy.

That legacy will say, in a nutshell, that Schwarzenegger doesn’t give a fig about California’s millions of consumers. Rather, it assures that he will be remembered as one who did the bidding of big business, especially those big businesses who donated money to his various campaign committees.

All it takes is a look at Peevey’s record to see all this. For Peevey, a former president of Edison International, parent company of the Southern California Edison Co., has turned the PUC into a rogue agency whose actions sometimes defy both state law and all logic except that of corporate welfare."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

As California Goes...

Eric Johnson's Wall Street Journal blog entry says it all, with no elaboration required, other than to note that it omits mention of the appointment of Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Nancy Sutley to be head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality:

What does the Obama administration’s proposed energy and environment troika mean for U.S. policy? Look west—all the way to California.

President-elect Obama’s prospective choice of Steven Chu to head the Department of Energy, Carol Browner to coordinate White House energy policy, and Lisa Jackson to run the EPA spells a strong commitment to use the Environmental Protection Agency to push ambitious changes in the country’s energy and environmental mix.

In other words, a sharp about-face from the current role of the EPA in which California will likely become the example—rather than the exception—for U.S. environmental policies.

Her's the whole post:

Team Obama: U.S. Energy Policy to Ape California? [Environmental Capital (Wall Street Journal)]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Teaching Grid-Neutral

California's State & Consumer Services Agency (SCSA) announced the release of Grid Neutral: Electrical Independence for California Schools and Community Colleges, a step-by-step guide to help California schools and community colleges cut energy costs through on-site electricity generation.

According to the official release:

"The guidebook walks school officials through the steps to creating a school that will balance its use of electricity with energy that is produced on the school campus. Schools are advised on the use of solar panels that convert sunlight to electricity, solar-thermal, where sunlight becomes heat for heating water; geo thermal installations that pump ground heat for heating water and air, and wind power. "

A big part of the guidebook deals with getting projects financed, which can often be the hardest part of "going green" and getting off the grid. The release optimistically states that there also is a lot of Prop 1D money laying around from the 2006 school construction bond issue.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Burbank's New Solar Hangar

Bob Hope Airport in Burbank is debuting a new 60,000 square foot solar powered airplane hangar. The hangar features solar panels on the roof and produces enough power to run not only maintenance equipment,but the avionics and other electrical systems of a commerical jetliner while it is being serviced.

At a cost of $17 million, the hangar has LEED Platinum status-- the U.S. Green Building Council's highest possible certification.

Solar-powered hangar debuts at Burbank airport [San Jose Mercury News]

Monday, December 08, 2008

The "D Word"


Mike Peevey is preparing for battle with the Democratic legislature over the PUC's proposal that partial deregulation be brought back to the state's electric power market. Specifically, he wants large, institutional users like big box stores, and cement plants to be able to shop for their own power, through the kind of direct access arrangement that still sends shivers down the spine of anyone who remembers the electricity crisis a few years ago.

TURN opposes it in a big way and put its opposition into context for the Los Angeles Times:

Opponents say they are willing to coexist with the remnants of the direct-access market, which accounts for about a tenth of the state's electricity consumption, down from a high of 16% in 2000. But they are adamant about not allowing the Public Utilities Commission to expand it unilaterally, without full debate and approval from the Legislature."We think this is an awful time to experiment with a system that proved to be a colossal failure last time," said Mark Toney, executive director of the Utility Reform Network, a San Francisco-based consumer group that advocates for ratepayers.

Keeping electricity available and affordable is too much a "life-and-death kind of issue" to leave its delivery and pricing up to the free market and susceptible to possible manipulation by unscrupulous generators, he said. "Not having power in your house is a lot more serious than your cable going down for an hour or a cellphone call dropping."

Peevey cites market forces as a predictor of lower rates.

The Times points out that there are some significant legal hurdles to overcome first:

"Bringing back direct access is a complex legal task that began more than a year ago. The biggest impediment is more than two dozen expensive power-purchase contracts signed by the state in 2001 to help end the crisis. According to state law, no expansion of retail competition for electricity can occur before the last contract expires, sometime between 2015 and 2017."

Friday, December 05, 2008

San Diego's Bright Idea

The City of San Diego is rolling out a plan-- pending City Council approval-- that will allow homeownders to finance the cost of solar installations and roll the payments into their property tax bills.

The City is looking to partner with a private lender to finance the individual deals, but on average, the cost to the consumer of doing so is estimated to be about $150 a month. The only regulatory requirement appears to be that the homeowner has to agree to be part of a special assessment district in order to roll the debt service on the private loan into their property tax billl.

The plan also anticipates the very real possibility that many homeowners will sell their houses, potentially leaving them stuck for paying for solar panels they no longer own. Under the proposed plan, the loan can be assigned to the new homeowner, rather than forcing the seller to pay off the balance out of the sale proceeds or continue paying down the loan long after the sale.

On the whole, it sounds pretty reasonable. Homeowners get instant cash flow from lower utility bills and a predictable debt repayment schedule that makes their property tax bills only incrementally larger.

Solar plan for San Diego [San Diego Union Tribune]

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Introducing the "Prius" Power Plant

Hybrid technology works for automobiles, why not for fossile fuel power plants?

FPL is building what will be the second largest solar power plant in the world and the biggest outside of California. The facility, which comes online in 2010, uses solar and nattural gas and, according to, works like this:

180,000 soalr collectors with mirrored surfaces will be spread over 500 acres; he mirrors reflect the sun onto receivers to heat liquid creating steam that in turn produces electricity whenever the sun is shining. When the sun isn't shining, the facility runs on natural gas.

FPL says the plant will do 155,000 MW a year.

FPL has begun to distinguish itself as one of the major utilities seriously committed to alternative energy. In addition to its 310 MW solar thermal plant in the Mojave Desert, the company also has 58 wind power facilities in sixteen states, generating 5800 MW per year.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hawaii Says "Aloha" To Electric Cars

Being a couple of thousand miles away from the closest state makes the state of Hawaii something of an ideal, self-contained laboratory to try radical, new things.

Earlier this year, Hawaii kicked off the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative which seeks to cut the state's dependence on oil by 30%-90%. Now the state is proposing to parner with a California company, A Better Place, LLC, to build a network of vehicle charging stations that will facilitate the switch to electric cars throughout the state.

According to Rebecca Smith in the Wall Street Journal:

"Under the plan, consumers would buy or lease electric cars, and Better Place would supply recharging services and batteries. Consumers would have a choice of buying mileage plans -- which would include recharging services and battery swaps -- or being guests on the network and paying for each battery charge."

That all sounds reasonable--and doable when you consider the comparably short distances driven in Hawaii and the square mileage of the state itself-- but here's the rub:

If oil costs the state a lot every year ($7 billion), so does electricity. Most electricity in Hawaii comes from oil fired generation and the cost of a kilowatt hour of electricity in Hawaii is 3x the mainland (roughtly $.25/hr vs. $.08/hr). That means that renewable energy capacity will have to be ramped up fast.

Hawaii has a lot of sun and wind, but creating an actual alt-energy grid for the island state will mean serious infrastructure including underseas cabling, etc.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Fox in the Henhouse?

The Los Angeles Times has a piece this morning about Obama's new National Security Advisor designate, former Marine General James Jones. One look at this guy will make you feel more "secure"-- he's a straight out of central casting Marine general who simply projects strength and command presence. That's the good news.

The bad news is that he is also a Chevron board member who is part of a controversial working group at the U. S. Chamber of Commerce that supports nuclear power and more drilling, and that questions the validity of global warming. Needless to say, his selection is causing something of a dust-up among the Obama base, who are, for the most part, global warming apostles and champions of renewable energy.

While I'm not entirely convinced John McCain got the memo about Gov. Sarah Palin's history with a secessionist political party in Alaska and her pregnant teenage daughter, I am confident that--for the most part-- thorough responsible vetting of appointees does take place at the hightest levels of government.

Which begs the question, "Mr. Obama, what problems DON'T you have?"

The economy is in the tank, the war(s) lingers on-- and those are just the top-line issues. Why would a presidential adminsitration invite this kind of distraction and anger the constituent base it needs to underwrite and prolong its political honeymoon?

Jones may be the greatest national security advisor in the history of government, but if energy is truly a matter of national security, then that gives him a prominent seat at the table in discussions about national energy policy.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a strong White House advocate for responsible energy policy, and the Times quotes remarks he made last year that seem pretty reasonable:

"Every industry, think tank and advocacy group has its interest, but everyone is going to have to step back and look at the bigger picture. The institute believes that an affordable, diverse and secure energy supply is fundamental to our security and to the expansion of economic opportunity and prosperity. We are equally convinced that this energy can be secured while making further progress in the fight for environmental quality and significant contributions to the management of climate change."

So this is either an inspired "Lincolnesque" selection by Obama that signals a cabinet comprised of anything but "yes-men," or it is a harbinger of the same kind of West Wing chaos we saw in the early days of the Clinton Administration.

Let's hope it's the former.

Monday, December 01, 2008

It's Ribbon Cutting Day

Arnold is in Fontana this morning to unveil the largest operating solar roof in California. Perched atop a warehouse, the array is the first in So Cal Ed's plan to cover two square miles of rooftops with solar panels, which will ultimately generate 250 million watts of generating capacity.

There is a great Freudian slip in the media advisory So Cal Ed put out. In referring to Arnold's "Million Solar Roofs" plan, the advisory has a typo, calling the program "Million Dollar Roofs." Oops!