Posts Tagged: alternative energy

The real deficit is one of confidence and readiness to change

Nicholas Kristof had a thought-provoking piece over the weekend in the New York Times pointing out how reckless politicians are hurting America from within:

The biggest threat to America’s national security this summer doesn’t come from China, Iran or any other foreign power. It comes from budget machinations, and budget maniacs, at home.

Motivated by ideology rather than practicality, some members of Congress are blind to the way their position will actually make America weaker, and how their “budget-cutting” stance will actually end up forcing the government to spend more (to finance debt payment at higher interest rates, for one). (more…)

Will California reach down deeper for renewable energy sources?

Tidal Farm

Less than five months after California voters strongly rejected a Republican effort to neuter the state’s commitment to renewable energy, the California legislature doubled down yesterday, advancing a bill to the governor’s desk requiring a sharp increase in the use of renewable energy. (more…)

Government at the center of innovation

Government can and should be at the center of innovation along with private industry.  The market is more nimble, the market is more responsive, and the market is more reactive.  But government can be the convener, the coordinator, and  the patriotic core driving projects America needs.   Tom Friedman’s New York Times column about an exciting group of alternative energy innovation centers (called Energy Innovation Hubs) proposed by the Department of Energy shows how “faceless” government agencies can work at the forefront of infrastructure change in this country.   Mini-Manhattan Projects devoted to peaceful production of energy, bringing together private industry, university researchers, and the best engineers the country has available?  A program like this would show us all that we can still solve problems.  And it might even work.

Government and public support for manufacturing jobs should be hand-in-glove

The federal government needs to invest in manufacturing.  What Ron Bloom, Obama administration counselor for manufacturing policy, calls “the ability to make things” is a capstone to the kind of research and development that American companies have always excelled at.  And it’s a way to build long-term, stable employment for more Americans — one of the key elements of family and neighborhood stability.  But as Louis Uchitelle’s profile of administration manufacturing expert Ron Bloom in the New York Times makes clear, so far the Obama administration isn’t ready to move too far beyond cheerleading.  (more…)

End-of-summer reading: the Big Green Buy

You might have missed this one over the summer, but it’s worth a look:  The Nation‘s Christian Parenti looks at one way government can quickly and easily move the economy greenward.  He calls it the Big Green Buy, and the idea is simple:  Instead of looking for breakthrough environmental technologies (which are up against massive obstacles we often ignore), the federal government should use its purchasing power to support green technologies that already exist and start saving energy and money. (more…)

The windy state

The Chicago Sun-Times Abdon Pallasch reports that federal and state government policies have pushed Illinois towards its present number of 1,100 wind turbines.  In fact, it looks like Illinois may be outpacing the Energy Department in encouraging alternative energy sources to come on line. (more…)

This Nuclear Option Could Be a Stalling Tactic

The Washington Post’s Michael Shear and Steven Mufson report on the Energy Department’s guarantee of $8.3 billion in loans for two nuclear reactors in Georgia:

By helping to finance the construction of the reactors — the first new U.S. nuclear power units in more than 30 years — Obama is hoping to jump-start his efforts to pass comprehensive climate-change legislation, which has stalled in Congress in the face of GOP opposition.

The president is also casting the nuclear initiative as a centerpiece of his plan to produce clean-energy jobs, although construction on the two reactors would not begin for more than a year.

Or not. As I reported in my story on a possible “clean coal” power plant in rural Illinois, the wisdom of these Energy Dept.-funded programs is unclear absent global warming legislation. (more…)

In FutureGen We Trust: While Washington Procrastinates On Global Warming, a Rural Illinois Town Casts its Lot With Clean Coal

Downtown Mattoon

A tour of Mattoon – a central Illinois town with around 18,000 people – can be kind of underwhelming. The town is off the interstate and surrounded by cornfields. There are a few bars, a 24-hour grocery store with the banner “Bob Evans sausage $1.79-a-pound,” a “feed-and-seed” store, and, for the Second Amendment enthusiast, “Freedom Firearms.” There’s a community college – Lakeland – as well as a downsizing General Electric plant. When I asked Preston Owens, the city attorney, about local attractions, he answered, “Well, it’s just another Midwestern town.”

Such modesty, though, disguises Mattoon’s ambition to be the international testing ground for clean coal technology. The town will almost assuredly land FutureGen, an alliance of coal companies created to build the first commercial-scale “clean coal” power plant — a plant that does not emit the carbon dioxide that triggers global warming. With coal used for half of America’s electricity and one-third of its greenhouse gas emissions, FutureGen will demonstrate that what coal critics call “the dirty rock” can remain part of America’s, and the world’s, long-term energy supply. At least that’s the idea. (more…)


Mike Grunwald’s TIME portrait of Secretary of Energy Steven Chu starts far afield — in China, where Chu had the chutzpah to lecture Chinese scientists about their country’s energy problems. It goes back pretty far as well — to Chu’s childhood on Long Island where both Chu and one of his brothers were, for a time, high-school dropouts . . . though all three Chu sons have gone on to significant careers. Chu earned a Nobel Prize in physics while at Stanford, and then cemented his reputation as the head of the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Of course, since Chu got his start at the University of Rochester (which Grunwald, in a fit of temporary madness, describes as the place Chu “settled for”) it’s no surprise he has gone on to a spectacular career.

But what Grunwald’s irreverent and tightly-worded profile (Chu spent “spent phone-monopoly money” at AT&T’s Bell Labs in New Jersey) shows most of all is that President Obama’s chose for energy secretary a creative and hard-driving soul, one whose intellectual abilities and interest in fixing things bode well for his work at DOE.

Chu is “retooling a sclerotic department to shell out about $39 billion worth of short-term stimulus projects;” he’s “pushing investment in wind, solar, and . . . a smarter grid to exploit them;” and he’s facing up to the challenges of Washington, D.C., where “a Nobel Prize winner’s opinion is just another opinion.” His idea is for U.S. energy policy to be “like Wayne Gretzky . . . positioning itself where the puck is going to end up.” A government agency that aims to be at the forefront of change? We could use a couple more cabinet secretaries with that kind of ambition. -NH