In the Pipeline: 8/22/11

It’s so sad when families squabble Washington Examiner (8/22/11) reports: Some top Congressional Democrats are losing faith in President Obama’s signature employment initiative, the promotion of so-called “green jobs.”  They’ve lost so much faith that on Thursday one liberal Democratic member of Congress called the president’s green jobs program “a lot of talk.”..”Of course, we want to be a part of the new innovation and the green jobs,” Rep. Maxine Waters said on MSNBC Thursday.  “But you know, the green jobs have been about a lot of talk and not a lot has been happening on that.” A few hours later, also on MSNBC, Waters said flatly: “All of this talk about the green jobs never materialized.”…Waters is a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus.  Last month, the chairman of that group, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, told the Huffington Post that green jobs had little meaning for his constituents.  “African-Americans out there were saying, ‘What do we have in common with this new, green technology?'” Cleaver told the website…The skepticism from Waters and Cleaver comes after a Washington Post-ABC poll, published July 26, found serious erosion in liberal Democratic support for Obama’s jobs policies.  “The number of liberal Democrats who strongly support Obama’s record on jobs plunged 22 points from 53 percent last year to 31 percent,” the Post reported.

Notice the tone of this article — the author tries to shame Japan for providing affordable and reliable energy for their people while they rebuild after the tsunami New York Times (8/22/11) reports: The half-century-old, oil-fueled power generators here had been idle for more than a year when, a day after the nuclear accident in March, orders came from Tokyo Electric Power headquarters to fire them up… “They asked me how long it would take,” said Masatake Koseki, head of the Yokosuka plant, which is 40 miles south of Tokyo and run by Tokyo Electric. “The facilities are old, so I told them six months. But they said, ‘No, you must ready them by summer to prepare for an energy shortage.’ ”…Now, at summer’s peak, Yokosuka’s two fuel-oil and two gas turbines are cranking out a total of 900,000 kilowatts of electricity — and an abundance of fumes…The generators are helping to replace the 400 million kilowatt-hours of daily electricity production lost this summer because of the shutdown of all but 15 of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. Across the country, dozens of other fossil-fuel plants have been fired up, and Japan is importing billions of dollars worth of liquefied natural gas, coal and oil to keep them running…Japan, the world’s third-largest user of electricity behind China and the United States, had counted on an expansion of nuclear power to contain energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, its nuclear program is in retreat, as the public and government officials urge a sharp reduction in the nation’s reliance on nuclear power and perhaps an end to it altogether…As its nuclear program implodes, Japan is grappling with a jump in fuel costs, making an economic recovery from the March earthquake and tsunami all the more difficult. Annual fuel expenses could rise by more than 3 trillion yen, or about $39 billion, the government says…The country, until recently a vocal proponent of measures to curb climate change, is also leaving a bigger carbon footprint. According to government calculations, Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions could rise by as much as 210 million metric tons, or 16 percent, by 2013 from 1990 levels if its nuclear reactors were shut permanently. Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions, Japan promised to reduce its emissions by 6 percent over that period.

Why replace a great title, “Feeding The Masses On Unicorn Ribs” — Walter Mead, you sir have a beer coming your way The American Interest (8/21/11) reports: Besides healing the planet and returning the rising seas to their natural beds, then-Senator Obama promised that his administration would create beautiful green jobs: well paid, stable, abundant jobs, unionized, with full benefits and making the earth healthier and the American people richer. As President, he stayed on message: even after the truther-enabling “green jobs czar” Van Jones left the administration, green jobs have been one of the President’s signature policies for putting the American people back to work…Obama promised to create 5 million green jobs within ten years. Investors’ Business Daily has a list of that plan’s successes so far…- On his recent jobs tour Obama stopped at a Johnson Controls plant in southern Michigan, which received $300 million in green grants and plans to create a whopping total of 150 jobs, at a cost of $2 million per position…- Evergreen Solar Inc., which received unknown amounts of green stimulus funds on the hope that it would create “between 90 and 100 jobs” two years ago, filed for bankruptcy this week, $485.6 million in debt. Their Massachusetts plant once employed 800 people; in March it was replaced with a factory in Wuhan, China…- Green Vehicles, an electric car “maker” in Salinas, California, took $500,000 from the city and almost $200,000 from the state but has failed to produce even one car…- And as reported earlier on this site, Seattle was one of a handful of cities that received $20 million in federal grants as part of Retrofit Ramp-Up, a program designed to refit houses with more energy efficient materials. Unfortunately, as KOMO4 of Seattle reports, after more than a year “only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program.”…The belief that green jobs would drive a new era of American prosperity was — like the large majority of green policy chat — intellectually incoherent.  The goods that drive renewable energy industries, like so much else in this world, are far cheaper to construct in Asia. As the NYT piece describes, SolFocus, a widely-celebrated solar power company based, only has 90 employees at their San Jose headquarters. The solar panels are assembled in China.  Whether a product is an ordinary t-shirt or an admirable piece of world saving green technology like a wind turbine has zilch, zero, nada influence on the mind of the manufacturer trying to decide where it should be made.

Don’t pop the champagne just yet, there’s still a lot of time between now and December for greenies to mobilize and stop the progress The Hill (8/22/11) reports: In December, the Interior Department will hold the first oil and natural-gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico since last year’s massive oil spill that devastated the region…Republicans and drill-state Democrats have long pressed the Obama administration to hold lease sales in the region, arguing that new domestic drilling will be a boon to the economy…The Dec. 14 lease sale in the western Gulf represents a first step toward new drilling in the region under a series of beefed-up safety and environmental standards imposed by Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) in recent months…“This sale is an important step toward a secure energy future that includes safe, environmentally sound development of our domestic energy resources,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement…The lease sale, which will be held in New Orleans, will offer up all unleased areas in a 20.6 million-acre block off the coast of Texas. The water depth in the lease sale area is between 16 and almost 11,000 feet…Sales in the region could produce up to 423 million barrels of oil and as much as 2.65 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to BOEMRE…BOEMRE said Friday it would increase the minimum bid in those areas deeper than 1,312 feet from $37.50 per acre to $100 per acre in order to “discourage companies from purchasing leases they are unlikely to explore in the near term.“

Like I said, December is a long time to wait for a lease sale Washington Post (8/22/11) reports: Sixty-five people were arrested Saturday outside the White House in a protest that organizers said was to pressure President Obama to deny a permit for a new oil pipeline…The protesters were charged with failing to obey an order governing protests on the White House sidewalk, said Sgt. David Schlosser, a spokesman for the U.S. Park Police… The president left Thursday for a 10-day vacation, but protesters said they expected two weeks of demonstrations…The incident Saturday appeared to involve the largest number of arrests near the White House since more than 100 people were taken into custody during a war protest in March…A statement on a Web site connected with the demonstration said protesters expected most of those arrested to be held for a court appearance Monday…In a statement, protesters said the proposed pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast would pose environmental risks.

This is exactly the sort of thing one would expect out of Pennsylvania State University or the cranks on the left. The Guardian (8/20/11) reports: It may not rank as the most compelling reason to curb greenhouse gases, but reducing our emissions might just save humanity from a pre-emptive alien attack, scientists claim…Watching from afar, extraterrestrial beings might view changes in Earth’s atmosphere as symptomatic of a civilisation growing out of control – and take drastic action to keep us from becoming a more serious threat, the researchers explain…This highly speculative scenario is one of several described by a Nasa-affiliated scientist and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University that, while considered unlikely, they say could play out were humans and alien life to make contact at some point in the future…Shawn Domagal-Goldman of Nasa’s Planetary Science Division and his colleagues compiled a list of plausible outcomes that could unfold in the aftermath of a close encounter, to help humanity “prepare for actual contact”…In their report, Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis, the researchers divide alien contacts into three broad categories: beneficial, neutral or harmful…Beneficial encounters ranged from the mere detection of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), for example through the interception of alien broadcasts, to contact with cooperative organisms that help us advance our knowledge and solve global problems such as hunger, poverty and disease.

Even Jeff Immelt, welfare queen, says that Obama’s regulations are a problem Empty Wheel (8/22/11) reports: I wanted to return to Jeff Immelt’s Dartmouth talk to focus on what he means by regulatory reform. It’s newsworthy not just for the way Immelt creates straw men to try to claim the energy industry is overregulated. But given that he’s such a key Obama advisor, and given that Obama is also claiming that regulatory reform will create jobs, Immelt’s worrisome claims–such as that regulatory agencies should approve applications in a week–deserve some attention and publicity…In response to a question posed indirectly by Hank Paulson about what he would do to create jobs (after 35:00), Immelt put regulatory reform as the first thing on his list (the others are infrastructure investment, retraining, and small business financing). (All transcriptions and errors therein in this post are my own.)…You’d look at regulation permitting cycles; you’d look at some regulatory schemes that are retarding growth. And as important, you’d just look at cycle time. Cycle time. You’d say, okay instead of three years, I’m gonna give you a week…Later (after 46:30), an audience member asks him how to make us more efficient while still being environmentally safe. Rather than answering that question, he returns to the idea of regulatory reform…I think that there are permitting cycle times that just are purely bureaucratic. The fact is, if you’re doing a cross-state line gas it takes four years, if you’re doing electricity grid it takes seven years. That seems a bit tardy, to me…And then, I think, let’s pick three. Let’s pick drilling off the Gulf of Mexico, let’s take the Trans-Canada pipeline that goes from the oil sands in Canada down to the United States, and let’s pick shale gas…Now, I think there should be rules for all of those. I don’t think people should be able to just do whatever they want to do. There should be rules for all of those. But we should be doing them all…In other words, the role of a regulator, be it the FDA or the EPA or anybody else is how to make it safe. It’s not to switch an on or an off switch.

Have a problem? Call up your local bureaucrat for an answer… Politico (8/18/11) reports: At Wednesday’s town hall in Atkinson, Ill., a local farmer who said he grows corn and soybeans expressed his concerns to President Barack Obama about “more rules and regulations” — including those concerning dust, noise and water runoff — that he heard would negatively affect his business…The president, on day three of his Midwest bus tour, replied: “If you hear something is happening, but it hasn’t happened, don’t always believe what you hear.”…When the room broke into soft laughter, the president added, “No — and I’m serious about that.”…Saying that “folks in Washington” like to get “all ginned up” about things that aren’t necessarily happening (“Look what’s comin’ down the pipe!”), Obama’s advice was simple: “Contact USDA.”…“Talk to them directly. Find out what it is that you’re concerned about,” Obama told the man. “My suspicion is, a lot of times, they’re going to be able to answer your questions and it will turn out that some of your fears are unfounded.”…Call Uncle Sam. Sensible advice, but perhaps the president has forgotten just how difficult it can be for ordinary citizens to get answers from the government.

This I don’t understand.  We’ve sold something like 2700 out of about 10 million vehicles sold in the U.S. New York Times (8/20/11) reports: Costco, the membership warehouse-club chain, was an early leader in offering electric-vehicle charging to its customers, setting an example followed by other retailers, including Best Buy and Walgreen. By 2006, Costco had installed 90 chargers at 64 stores, mostly in California but also some in Arizona, New York and Georgia. Even after General Motors crushed its EV1 battery cars, the Costco chargers stayed in place…Yet just as plug-in cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt enter the market, Costco is reversing course and pulling its chargers out of the ground, explaining that customers do not use them… “We were early supporters of electric cars, going back as far as 15 years. But nobody ever uses them,” said Dennis Hoover, the general manager for Costco in northern California, in a telephone interview. “At our Folsom store, the manager said he hadn’t seen anybody using the E.V. charging in a full year. At our store in Vacaville, where we had six chargers, one person plugged in once a week.”…Mr. Hoover said that E.V. charging was “very inefficient and not productive” for the retailer. “The bottom line is that there are a lot of other ways to be green,” he said. “We have five million members in the region, and just a handful of people are using these devices.”…Plug In America, the California-based E.V. advocacy group, contends that the stations do get used, and is conducting a rigorous grassroots campaign to save them. The group asserts that some of the units have been delivering free electricity to loyal E.V. owners for a decade or more, and that people regularly plug in.

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