Regal Cinamea To Relase New Climate Change Film, The Great Warming on November 3, 2006
Brooklyn Center Stadium 20 (off of Hwy 252)
The Great Warming and Stonehaven Productions
Regular $8.50; Student $7.25; Uof M Student--Discount tickets at Coffman Union
The Film, Shot on Four Continents and Narrated by Keanu Reeves and Alanis Morissette, Will be Shown in the Top 50 U.S. Markets. (New York, NYâ€” Sept. 28 2006) A new documentary film,"The Great Warming", examining world-wide issues of climate change and offering many real-world solutions, will be released nationwide through the Regal Cinema chain on Nov. 3, with an initial showing in the top 50 (ADI) markets in the country, it was announced today by producer Karen Coshof of Stonehaven Productions. Coshof noted the launch marks an opening of at least three times more screens than any film of its kind.â€œRegalâ€™s acceptance of "The Great Warming" is of special significance as the company generally doesnâ€™t exhibit independent documentary films,â€ said Coshof. â€œThis is a testament to Regalâ€™s recognition and support of the movieâ€™s commercial viability and to the wide public interest in finding ways to reverse the degradation of the planet.â€Coshof said the film is built on solid science, and roams the political and faith spectrum from Evangelical Christians to Friends of the Earth, asking tough questions and offering insightful and thought-provoking solutions. Itâ€™s also populated with inventors, schoolchildren, researchers, farmers and entrepreneurs from around the world who are feeling the brunt of climate change and global warming, and/or finding innovative ways to tackle them. In the months leading up to its national release, "The Great Warming"(85 minutes) has attracted an unprecedented coalition of leaders in science, religion, business, environmental activism and education. These various groups have bridged historic gaps to join in support of the film, because â€œthey believe in an individual and collective moral responsibility to reverse the growing threats to the environment and human health and well-being,â€ Coshof said. To that end, a full-page ad will appear in a Washington D.C. newspaper in October, announcing a call to action signed by leaders from every sector. More than a science lecture or a red alert, "The Great Warming" is aimed at bringing average citizens up to speed on the issues that are and will continue to affect them. Its overall emphasis offers hope through real-world solutions that, if implemented, can make a difference now and into the future. The filmâ€™s effectiveness is already proven, as grassroots screenings in recent weeks have mobilized members of hundreds of churches, schools, town halls and community organizations across the county."The Great Warming" was made possible with the generous support of Swiss Re -the world's leading and most diversified global reinsurer. The filmâ€™s launch sponsors include clean energy distributor Krystal Planet, Ecover green products and the Body Shop. â€œIn the course of making this film, we were determined not to lose sight of our most important advocate, the person on the street,â€ said Coshof. â€œWe wanted to make this issue resonate in every household everywhere. To engage not only the intellect, but most importantly the emotion and will of every person so that they feel empowered to act.â€
Roughly every two weeks, the NY Times has released a new article on various energy topics in what they are dubbing "The Energy Challenge."
- Global Warming
The New York Times has an article looking at spending on energy-related R&D by the US government. Not surprisingly, spending has decreased significantly since the 1970s:
It has sunk to $3 billion a year in the current budget from an inflation-adjusted peak of $7.7 billion in 1979, according to several different studies.
Also noteworthy is that federal spending on medical research has quadrupled since 1979, standing at $28 million currently. Military spending has really soared, having increased 260 percent (don't you feel so much safer now??)
Interestingly, Gore has backed off from his somewhat provocative statement in the Inconvenient Truth that "we already know everything we need to know to effectively address this problem," now saying that existing technology can start us on a path to a stable climate.
Obviously, we need a mixture of smart policies promoting energy efficiency and renewables, as well as R&D investment to tackle climate change. I also think that more research needs to go into dealing with the effects of climate change - e.g., looking at structures needed to protect cities from rising sea levels, developing drought resistant crops, etc. We certainly shouldn't put too much faith in a future carbon tax to change our ways- would the federal government ever set a tax high enough to potentially hurt the economy? I doubt it.
I know there's been some interest around Minnesota's Community-Based Energy Development (C-BED) program, a state-mandated project by which utililities sponsor projects (by buying the electricity through a special front-loaded structure) that have primarily community ownership along with equity investment. This initiatives was developed to spur the development of community-owned renewable energy (primarily wind and biomass) in Minnesota. Last February, a new round of C-BED projects, Xcel Energy, the largest provider of projects, committed 300 MW of installed C-BED projects by 2007, and a total of 500 MW by 2010. This forms a large part of the target of 800 MW the state is aiming for.
More info on the C-BED program can be found at www.c-bed.org.
The Macalester Clean Energy Revolving Fund (CERF), a Macalester fund I started with a couple of friends last year and managed by a board of two students, a faculty member, and administrator, and an alumni, is in the process of entering a C-BED project for a 2 MW wind turbine. CERF is committed to investing in efficiency and renewable energy projects generated by the campus community (primarily students working with others) that are financially viable through cost-savings and revenue generation, thus sustaining and growing the fund for yet more initiatives. Started with $27,000 of student government and Environmental Studies department funding last spring, and recently augmented with a $40,000 comittment from the administration, CERF is starting its operations with a moderate degree of funding, but is obviously focused on projects that will allow it to grow considerably to provide more substantial support in the future. The C-BED system appears to be an excellent way to embark on major projects from this degree of funding, which is similar to that experienced by many farmers or other rural developers who may want to participate in the wind business. As an independent fund under Macalester College, CERF is covered under Macalester's 501c3 status, which fits the requirements of C-BED participants, that they either be Minnesota residents, or Minnesota 501c3 non-profits (there are some other categories including public schools, native American groups, etc.). While not the typical member of such a C-BED deal (most are citizens or families), CERF does face a very similar process.
The contract is not yet secured; this will require both approval by the college treasurer (the one downside of being under Macalester, since while they love the idea, they must of course deal with the liability hazards even though the funding is provided by CERF), as well as review of some basic documentation under development. However, I'll try to give a brief background of what has happened/ what we think will happen.
We learned about C-BED through our initial research into industrial scale wind turbines last fall and through the guidance of Jeff Paulson, a renewable energy lawyer who is helping us with this deal pro bono. The idea is that CERF, as the community partner in the C-BED project provides a small investment in the 2MW wind turbines being slated for production - roughly 1% of entire development/ construction costs. For the 2MW turbines widely being considered (likely Suzlon-88 models (Suzlon is Indian)) construction costs are ~$2.7-2.9 million, so 1% is $27,000-29,000. An equity investor would cover the remaining cost for a majority of the initial revenue. Jeff helped us identify a turbine project among those he was involved in and eventually identified a project in Stevens County MN with 10 turbines, one of which is potentially the CERF wind turbine. A local wind energy developer created West Stevens Wind, a blanket Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) to manage this project and negotiated the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Northern States Power (Xcel Energy). The final contract for the PPA through a C-BED financing structure for the 10 turbines in this project is soon to be released.
C-BED is structured to provide high-return rates in the first 10 years (when debt service and equity return needs are the greatest). Since most debt financing structures have 10-year lengths, many turbine projects have very low profits in the first 10 years after which profits spike substantially (less useful for the owner). Most turbines sell electricity to large utilities at around 3.3 cents/kwh. C-BED introduces a front-loaded pricing system using a concept called Net Present Value - I'm not economically savy enough to understand quite what this means - set at a maximum of 2.7 cents/kwh. While this sounds low, the actual effect is that electricity rates are quite high in the first 10 years (somewhere from 5-6 cents/kwh, though we haven't seen the PPA yet) which then drops dramatically after the first 10 years (to around 3 cents/kwh) and then rises slowly after that (basically inflation). To make the first-10 years even more profitable, C-BED projects are also eligible for the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) which I think is currently at 1.9 cents/kwh (it is 1.5 cents/kwh scaled to inflation) since the equity investors are usually large corporations with a tax load. Furthermore, depreciation benefits can accrue in initial years. Wind PPAs are generally made on 20-year periods, although the life of the turbine could be longer.
Each community owner can own only up to 2 turbines through C-BED, so a 10-turbine system like this one includes a number of different C-BED owners: our project would consist of 8 LLCs, 2 of them owning 2 turbines and the other 6 (including ours) owning 1. Initial investments in project development are fronted by the community partner for MISO studies (analyzing transmission costs), and verifying wind potential, but are counted towards the total 1% of project costs. Once the PPA is negotiated, participant owners (like CERF) form independent LLCs under the central West Stevens Wind LLC. LLCs reduce liability to basically the investment in the project and are managed by a Board of Governors - in this case since the entire West Stevens Wind would also have a Board of Governors composed of the component LLCs and the equity investor in the entire project (who wants to deal with as few members as possible, it is likely that each LLC will only have 1 Governor, who in our case will most likely be a member of the CERF Board. After the community partners are collected, the equity investor (possibly Mission Edison, a subsidiary of Edison Electric, in our case) joins to finance the majority of the project. The equity investor will recieve 99%of revenues, tax incentives, depreciation benefits etc. initially (assuming 1% community partner ownership in ech of the turbines). The equity investor sets a target return - this is estimated to take 8-12 years to pay off depending on the wind, after which point majority ownership will flip to the community partner - somewhere in the range of 80-95 % ownership, and subsequent revenues will be split along those lines - an excellent deal considering that the initial investment was only ~$30 k.
In addition to the initial 1% of revenues that the community partner recieves, they also recieve a management fee since they are responsible for the management of the turbine, though the cost of maintenance is usually already accounted for - the way management responsibilities were phrased was it would be keeping an eye on the turbine and if it stopped working calling to get it fixed. Also, since there are 10 turbines together, it is likely that one local manager would manage all of them on the ground supported by the constituent LLCs, the lead developer of the project may do this. The management fee could be anywhere from $12,000-30,000, which though a big difference, is all within the range of short-term profitability (payback within 1-3 years even if there are some costs, which should again, be minor). The expected revenues of each turbine would be somewhere in the range of $300,000 annually for the first 10 years, with possibly up to another $100,000 in tax credits and depreciation benefits, and aroun$150,000 annually thereafter. Again, the initial stream would primarily go to the equity investor.
Next steps after the PPA is finalized are forming the LLCs (hopefully including CERF) that will make up West Stevens Wind, conducting the initial development studies, and then negotiating with the equity partner before finalizing leases (each turbine will also provide several thousand dollars for the quarter-acre of land they lease to the local owners), and moving towards construction. This project is scheduled to be constructed sometime in fall 2007. Nearly all of the currentC-BED projects will be up and running by the end of 2007 because at the end of 2007, the PTC (Production Tax Credit) expires. While there is strong hope that the PTC will be renewed at the federal level, project developers are careful to get the project generating energy by the end of 2007, since if by some chance it is not renewed, the project will be much less succesful. Any project that is generating electricity by fall 2007 will recieve the PTC for the first 10 years of production whether or not the PTC is renewed. The community partner does get a share of the tax credits, which in the case of CERF may be usable by Macalester College for taxes on property rentals, but since most or all of the first 10 years is majority equity ownership, this does not make a sizeable impact on the community partner.
I think it's pretty clear that this is an excellent deal for residents and non-profits in Minnesota. The most common reaction I've gotten from people is 'where's the catch', it sounds too good to be true. The actual system seems pretty solid, C-BED keeps account of the millions C-BED is already funnelling into MN's economy. The only downside I can see is where it came from: C-BED was negotiated as part of the Xcel nuclear dry-cask storage agreements - as was Xcel's wind mandate. It is a great opportunity to jumpstart community-owned energy!
Well, that's a rather long descrip, but I hope it gives a good idea of how C-BED projects actually work - at least as I understand it. I'll send an update when we make more progress towards our C-BED turbine.
The Environmental Defense Fund has a controversial climate change commercial which likens global climate change to a train. Watch it via the above link.
Gristmill already has a thread discussing this but I am curious what people think about it.
I like it. I think it is done rather tastefully but it has definite potential to be dismissed as overly alarmist by people not familiar with the science (meaning people who have relied upon news organizations for information about the subject).
The EPA has a nifty database of power plants in the US that allows you to look up emissions data, fuel type, location, etc. Go to
to learn more and download the files.
It's a climate skeptics trap! Run, run! Otherwise put your brain where your convictions are:
It comes complete with four separate climate-skeptic categories:
- Stages of Denial;
- Scientific Topics;
- Types of Argument; and
- Levels of Sophistication.
"Here's more motivation to go on that diet: You'll use less gasoline. Non-commercial U.S. vehicles are using at least 938 million more gallons of gasoline annually than they did in 1960 because drivers and passengers are considerably heavier and are dragging down fuel economy, says a University of Illinois study to be published in The Engineering Economist. In 1960, the average adult female weighed 140 pounds and the average male weighed 166; in 2002, the averages were 164 and 191 respectively, and 62 percent of adults were considered overweight. That 938 million gallons is no shabby amount: It represents $2.8 billion if gas is selling for $3 a gallon, and could fuel some 1.7 million cars for a year, or feed the entire U.S. gasoline addiction for three days. "We had no idea the numbers would be this big," said study coauthor Sheldon Jacobson, who calls using less fuel an "unexpected benefit" of losing that spare tire."--Grist
Check out the sources:LA Times October 25th Article
The big push for deregulation of electricity has stalled. Most of us know that generally what went wrong and generally know the players involved, but a recent NY Times story cleared up some of my confusion around the issue.
"In Deregulation, Plants Turn Into Blue Chips" by David Cay Johnston (who I think wrote a book about big business in energy), explains why those who have experienced deregulation are frustrated, and about to become livid.
Always beware the incentives
Because utilities are still allowed to pass on the cost of the power they buy, they have little incentive to choose a cheaper supplier. Electricity customers therefore end up paying more than they would have to if electricity production were truly competitive.
After Baltimore Gas & Electric transferred its 12 power plants to an unregulated affiliate and became only a distribution company, it continued to buy 70 percent of its electricity from the plants because there were not enough independent generators to supply the area’s needs. Baltimore Gas & Electric sought a 72 percent rate increase this year, causing such an outcry that Maryland regulators gave it only an immediate 15 percent, but with big additional increases virtually guaranteed over the next few years.
I saw an article about this last week which suggested that this dereg has been handled so poorly that even people at the Cato Institute say the regulated system would have been preferable to what we now see.
Update: David Cay Johnston wrote Perfectly Legal, which was on the U.S. tax system. This was the second in a series of articles, the first is available here in the NY Times archive. Thanks to David Cay Johnston for the information and correction.
Sen. Norm Coleman is suggesting that Congress strip California and all other states, along with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, of much of their authority to control carbon dioxide emissions.
Hubert H. Humphrey Center, Cowles Auditorium
Center for Science, Technology, and Public Policy, Institute for Renewawble Energy and the Environment
Some recent news from area sources. I continue to support the transit amendment but it looks like it is coming under more opposition. I really wonder if this would be the case if oil continued at $75 a barrell.
Refusing to invest in greater transit now will likely be seen as the worst mistake of this time period.
The Politics of Falling Gas Prices - A somewhat dated piece on gas prices and their non-factor in the upcoming election.
Transportation Amendment - Supporters and opponents of the amendment to dedicate more money to transit and roads.
Editorial against the traffic amendment
Federals release money for Northstar construction - Some of the money required ($5 of $80 million) has been released.
The following was posted on the Minneapolis Issue E-List today from one of the Park Board Members. It refers to a proposal to put a small hydroelectric generation plant on the Mississippi River by the Stone Arch Bridge. I believe that the original proposal was to put it in at the north side of the Mill Ruins parking lot on the west bank.
There is a pretty long history with Crown Hydro. The Park Board denied their previous request for use of park land. There were many issues involved in the decision including concern about stability of the ground above the ruins, noise and vibrations from the turbines, and reduction of water flow. Go to the e-democracy website and do a search for Crown Hydro to find out more. It appears that Crown Hydro has tried to address several of those issues in their latest proposal.
This is a good case of trying to balance the need for increased renewables with the urban environment. St. Anthony Falls is one of the few sites along the Mississippi River that offers any potential for hydroelectric generation. Yet, it's in the middle of the city and a significant historical district. Thoughts?
I have seen a proposal from Crown Hydro that is different from the proposal previously presented to the Park Board.
I am well aware this was a very controversial issue especially for those who live close by.
My District, district # 3 begins down river at Portland, so this project is in my district.
From the proposal:
The power generation will be silent and invisible and operate only when there is sufficient water to keep a minimum amount of water over the falls.
Two silent, vibration free turbines 42' underground; can generate 20-25 Million Kilowathours/year(2000-2500 Homes)
Next to the Park Board's existing water intake for Mills Ruin Park which is located at the North end of the parking lot by the stone arch bridge.
Water enters intake drops 42' passes through turbines hidden below the surface and returns through Park Board tailrace canal in Mill Ruins Park (less than 8% annual river flow)
Turbines operate only when river supplies adequate water. Turbines reduce or suspend operation to ensure flow over St. Anthony Falls and to maintain aesthetics and property values.
They have also suggested that Condo Associations and Neighborhood Groups be represented on a citizen Advisory Committee which would recommend policy about flow rates and make recommendation about some of the revenue produced by this project.
I have many questions, some answers, and would like to make sure this proposal receives sufficient public review.
Rob Brown is their communications person and could provide additional
details: firstname.lastname@example.org_ (mailto:email@example.com)
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
Commissioner District # 3
UPDATE: An article appeared in the Skyway News on the Crown Hydro project. This will be receiving a lot more attention once the election is over and the Park Board prepares to hear it. I'll try to pass on information when I get it.
Popular Mechanics has a pessimistic article about the most abundent element in the universe - Hydrogen. More specifically, the hydrogen economy.
Before delving too deeply into it, I want to start where they end - by noting that hydrogen technology will have its place in the future but is not the cure-all for our ills.
Ultimately, hydrogen may be just one part of a whole suite of energy alternatives. Any one of them will involve investing heavily in new infrastructure. Though the price tag will be steep, we can't afford oil's environmental, economic and political drawbacks any longer.
As most of us recognize, our problems must be solved by diversifying our energy sources and restructuring the organization of our lives. Investment and research into future technologies is only a piece of the solution.
This passage features the key ideas and ends with my favorite quote.
At first glance, hydrogen would seem an ideal substitute for these problematic fuels. Pound for pound, hydrogen contains almost three times as much energy as natural gas, and when consumed its only emission is pure, plain water. But unlike oil and gas, hydrogen is not a fuel. It is a way of storing or transporting energy. You have to make it before you can use it — generally by extracting hydrogen from fossil fuels, or by using electricity to split it from water.
And while oil and gas are easy to transport in pipelines and fuel tanks — they pack a lot of energy into a dense, stable form — hydrogen presents a host of technical and economic challenges. The lightest gas in the universe isn't easy to corral.
Popular Mechanics details 4 hydrogen hurdles: production, storage, distribution, and use. Nearly all hydrogen is currently produced using natural gas. The future may allow production of hydrogen from electrolysis using electricity from the grid - again, this seems like shifting the problem rather than solving it.
To my mind though, the biggest problem remains the issue of transportation (or distribution in the article's lingo).
Currently, most hydrogen is transported either in liquid form by tankers or as compressed gas in cylinders by trailers. Both methods are inefficient. Trucking compressed hydrogen 150 miles, for instance, burns diesel equivalent to 11 percent of the energy the hydrogen stores. It also requires a lot of round trips: A 44-ton vehicle that can carry enough gasoline to refuel 800 cars could only carry enough hydrogen to fuel 80 vehicles.
Talk of spending the $500 billion or so a hydrogen economy requires in infrastructure seems like a big price tag for a rather wasteful system.
The article suggests that hydrogen might make a lot more sense for fleet vehicles than it would for the general public. This seems a fairly safe bet.
Professor Kelly MacGregor will share her research and experiences in the high drama world of glaciers - specifically how the glaciers in the North American Rockies are changing in response to rising global temperatures and other variables.
Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel, Macalester College. The big glass building on Grand Ave in St. Paul west of Snelling.