In the Pipeline: 2/28/11

Fools Gold: UK learns from the green energy boom and bust in Spain, but will the Obama Administration? Bloomberg (2/27/11) reports: Cornwall, the poorest county in England, said five months ago it expected a “gold rush” of $1.6 billion in solar energy investments. Now, the U.K. government may get in the way…The central government said this month it’s considering cutting incentives and reducing the size of projects, concerned that the above-market rates it promised through April 2012 may lead to too many solar farms…Britain is moving faster than any other European country to contain a surge in solar power and prevent the boom-and-bust seen in Spain and predicted for the Czech Republic. The risk is scaring off the investors who would create the “green jobs” Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking to revive the economy…“It’s going to completely kill the market,” said Tim German, renewable energy manager for the local government in Cornwall at the U.K.’s southwest tip. “Investors are starting to get cold feet.”

Winning the Future: DOE praises new green building as success — only catch, every employee needs to constantly open or close windows when the temperature alarm sounds Wall Street Journal (2/28/11) reports: When the first employees moved into the Department of Energy’s new research facility here last summer, a whole lot of people were watching—with a whole lot of anxiety…Planners of the $64 million facility, part of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, set out to make it the greenest office building in the nation…But no one was certain the building would perform as efficiently as its designers hoped…The Energy Department hopes lessons learned in this Denver suburb will help guide green-construction practices around the world. Outside experts in efficient construction point out that some of the technology used at NREL is best suited for high-sunlight, low-humidity climates like Colorado and wouldn’t work nearly as well elsewhere. The building also demands a lot from its employees, who must adjust to fluctuating temperatures throughout the day and pop up from their desks to open and shut windows; a work force less dedicated to energy efficiency might rebel…”NREL said from the beginning that this building was part of their lab,” says Richard von Luhrte, president of RNL, the international architectural firm that designed the building—and is still tweaking it…Eight months into the experiment, the building “is performing according to design,” says Byron Haselden, president of Haselden Construction LLC of Centennial, Colo., builders of the facility. “Whew!” he adds.

Parsimonious is the smug way of saying poor — affordable and reliable energy can bring millions out of poverty and that terrifies greenies Los Angeles Times (2/28/11) reports: China, a manufacturing powerhouse, is already the world’s biggest carbon emitter, but ordinary Chinese remain remarkably parsimonious in their energy use. Matthew Kahn, Rui Weng, Siqi Zeng and I, in a study published in 2010, estimated carbon emissions for urban households in China, measuring only household emissions and personal transportation. In our sample, the average Chinese household emitted less than 2.2 tons of carbon dioxide a year, which is less than 1/17th of the levels that Kahn and I found in an earlier study of U.S. cities. Even the greenest U.S. metro areas, such as San Jose and San Francisco, emitted almost 12 times as much as carbon as the Chinese metropolitan areas…The low carbon figures among Chinese households today mean that there is frighteningly large room for growth in Chinese energy use. The Chinese bought more than 18 million cars last year alone. India’s hot climate suggests that its household emissions may eventually be even higher, once a billion air conditioners come into operation.

Ken ‘all hat and no cattle’ Salazar is the kind of guy that believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday Wall Street Journal (2/26/11) reports: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the oil industry hasn’t yet persuaded him to re-start deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and that he won’t “respond to political pressure” on the issue…Mr. Salazar and Michael Bromwich, the head of the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which oversees offshore drilling, met oil-industry executives in Houston to assess new spill-containment systems they have developed in the wake of the nation’s worst-ever marine oil spill last year in the Gulf of Mexico…Mr. Bromwich said he was “quite confident that we are getting very close to the point where we can begin issuing deep-water permits.” The U.S. government shut down deep-water drilling shortly after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 people…The government’s official ban was lifted in October, but regulators have yet to allow drilling in water deeper than 500 feet despite mounting political pressure. Congressional Republicans and Gulf Coast Democrats are pushing to reopen one of the nation’s primary energy fields as oil prices climb and as unemployment hovers near 9%…Oil prices have surged on concerns of supply disruptions due to political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa. The recent run above $100 a barrel has given strength to the push for domestic supplies…”We’re seeing potential for loss of jobs and disruption of the energy market,” said U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat.

When you fly military or have an intern drive you around to ribbon cuttings, it’s hard to stay in touch with gas prices Financial Times (2/25/11) reports: Companies around the world have begun to warn about the impact of higher fuel costs on their businesses, raising fears about profits and inflation…Companies in the most energy-intensive sectors, such as airlines, have been the first to raise the alarm, but analysts warned that a sustained period of high oil prices would have a widespread effect on earnings…On Friday, Thai Airways, the state-controlled carrier, said that it would have to review its revenue targets to assess the impact of the rise in oil prices…International Airlines Group, the owner of British Airways and Iberia, said it was “likely” that fares would rise again, following fuel surcharges already imposed, if the volatility in oil markets continued.

Wind can’t catch a break; even when it works it cause it problems — kind of like Congress New York Times (2/25/11) reports: The Bonneville Power Administration says it is preparing to sharply reduce the region’s wind generators’ output during extreme high water flows in the Columbia River system as a last resort to assure that hydropower dam operations do not threaten protected fish populations…If the region’s grid is carrying high power output from wind generators at a time when the river flow is extremely high, the combination of wind power and hydropower would exceed the demand for electricity, in expected scenarios…BPA says in those circumstances, it would have to curtail wind generation or increase water flows over hydro dam spillways, bypassing dam generators. But excessive flows over spillways can raise nitrogen levels in the water below the dams, violating federal regulations that protect salmon and other fish species.

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