You heard of the people who want to intentionally put sulfur in the atmosphere to stunt global warming? Such schemes have a name. Geoengineering and Wired magazine thinks it is pretty cool.
As Representative Peterson (author of the bill) noted, this will be the most aggressive RES in the country for states with comparable energy markets - meaning pretty much everyone but California. Once the whole House approves this and Governor Pawlenty signs it, it will require all Minnesota utilities except Xcel to generate 25% of their electricity from eligible renewable sources by 2025. Xcel Energy will generate 30% by 2020.
Before the committee dealt with the actual bill, Chairman Hilty indulged a private citizen by the name of Don Dane to some loony testimony. I'm new to this, but if there is a Committee Chair more indulgent than Chair Hilty, I sure would not want to sit in on it.
Don Dane, retired mechanical engineer generally proclaimed his scientific ignorance (for which he was later commended by Representative Beard). As V noted, he proclaimed coal to be an alternative energy that could supply the whole world with $.50 per gallon gas for hundreds of years. An added benefit of this strategy is that we would put the Middle East countries out of business and stop terrorism! w00t.
As a commenter to V's post noted, his testimony appears to have been inspired by the work of Fred Singer and Dennis Avery. They have a book entitled Global Warming Every 1500 Years that appears to be well-regarded among climate change flat-earthers.
The Real Climate blog discussed this line of reasoning a few months ago.
The existence of climate changes in the past is not news to the climate change scientific community; there is a whole chapter about it in the upcoming IPCC Scientific Assessment. Nor do past, natural variations in climate negate the global warming forecast. Most past climate changes, like the glacial interglacial cycle, can be explained based on changes in solar heating and greenhouse gases, but the warming in the last few decades cannot be explained without the impact of human-released greenhouse gases. Avery was very careful to crop his temperature plots at 1985, rather than show the data to 2005.
Perhaps the best point is this:
Natural and human-induced climate changes both exist. Studying one does not imply disbelief in the other.
One of the other Don Dane points is that the carbon accumulation in the atmosphere does not correspond exactly to temperature changes. Carbon dioxide accumulation at times follows temperature increases. Real Climate dealt with that question here.
The reason has to do with the fact that the warmings take about 5000 years to be complete. The lag is only 800 years. All that the lag shows is that CO2 did not cause the first 800 years of warming, out of the 5000 year trend. The other 4200 years of warming could in fact have been caused by CO2, as far as we can tell from this ice core data.
Representative Beard seized upon his testimony to question the "fad" of global warming and misconstrue the testimony of Betsy Engelking from Xcel Energy. He claimed that for "every kilowatt of wind you build, ya gotta have something to back it up." This is not true though you do have to have some backup ready and this is one of the functions of MISO.
He suggests that low wind availability several weeks ago caused the tightness in the spare capacity on those cold days when utilities asked people to reduce consumption. Engelking had testified that the shortage was due to both planned and unplanned outages in other facilities (both coal, I believe). His concerns about wind are overblown and his attention to detail quite poor.
He wraps up with: "In about six or seven years, this fad too shall pass and we'll be on to something else."
Representative Peterson noted that this is not a fad and noted the testimony of experts in the previous weeks. I get a kick out of Representative Magnus' attempts to equate the testimony of a retired mechanical engineer who read a book with people who have spent decades studying climate.
I am not an expert in climate issues nor mechanical engineering but if I stood before a House Committee to testify about building codes in skyscrapers because I read a Petroski book, I hope they would laugh at me.
On to the amendments! Note that Peterson wanted no amendments so they could pass the bill using the same language as the Senate and avoid the delay of a conference committee to work out the changes.
Representative Westrom introduced several amendments relating to C-BED and other issues but they were all shot down. He later discussed his desire to extend the University's IREE (Initiative on Renewable Energy and the Environment) funding from 2008 to 2020 with an increase. 3 cheers for that!
Representative Magnus passed out some research from the Republican Caucus in which he noted his concerns regarding the validity of the background information they were using to put the bill together. He again misrepresented the testimony of Michael Noble about Minnesota "falling behind." Noble was very clear that our REO is in the middle of the pack for its aggressiveness but that Minnesota's installed wind capacity is 4th in the country.
Magnus then stated his concern that Minnesota needed a comprehensive long range plan. He is concerned about doing this on a piecemeal basis and putting off C-BED (community development) and CIP programs (conservation and efficiency) until later because time has a habit of running out unexpectedly.
In the end, it all came down to a voice vote and it sounded like only a single person said no. The bill now goes to the Ways and Means Committee.
This premier on global warming shows how business, local governments, and citizens are taking positive actions to reduce global warming emissions.
Minneapolis Urban League 2100 Plymouth Ave. N. Minneapolis, MN
Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota www.ejamn.org
â€œToo Hot Not to Handleâ€ This premier on global warming shows how business, local governments, and citizens are taking positive actions to reduce global warming emissions. February 23, 6:30-8:30 Food, Fun, and Film This will be a great time to socialize and learn about Environmental Justice issues. Location: Minneapolis Urban League-2100 Plymouth Ave. N. Minneapolis Call for more information - 612-436-5402
No, hell hasn't frozen over, but Alaska is thawing. Ted Stevens (R-AK) is sponsoring a bill that would raise CAFE standards for cars to 40 mpg, citing the danger posed to his state by global warming. Just two years ago, Stevens voted against the same standards. Stevens isn't the only politician who has changed his tune- former Detroit allies on both sides of the aisle appear willing to back tougher standards in the name of energy security and doing something about global warming.
So I'm sure that Mitchell will post an extended recount of what happened at the hearing today, once he feels better and has a chance to listen in, but I will post the basics now. Peterson did choose to adopt the Senate language, and despite the efforts of Westrom (4 amendments) and Hackbarth (1 amendment), he and Hilty were successful in getting it passed through committee - with only one nay (wasn't in roll call, so I can't say for sure, but I think it was Hackbarth...). We are days away from a RES (that begins in 2010)!
In other news, there was one testifier at today's hearing, and boy was he interesting... A retired mechanical engineer who wanted to know why Minnesota legislators were squandering taxpayer dollars on "renewable energies" when it was obvious that global warming isn't human caused (it's part of the "normal 1500 year cycle" and has something to do with water evaporation.. didn't understand that part very well). Instead of focusing so much on renewables, we should be spending money on alternative energy -- his stellar example was gasoline from coal (yes, you read that right - coal), which apparently can be generated at 50 cents per gallon. Why the man thought that coal, a fossil fuel, was alternative is beyond my comprehension.
For you inventors out there, billionaire Virgin head honcho Sir Richard Branson has offered $25 million to the first person who can design a CO2 eating machine that can remove at least a billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. Branson made the announcement with Al Gore at his side. This hypothetical machine would differ from standard carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) because rather than capturing the CO2 at the source, it would remove it from the ambient air.
I'm offering my own contest with a $0 cash prize to the first person who can calculate the number of trees that would have to be planted to remove one billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. Bonus question: how much land would these trees take up?
While the Senate has voted overwhelmingly to approve S.F. 4, calling for a strong renewable energy standard for Minnesota, the House continued to hear testimony on it in the Energy Committee on Wednesday, 7 Feb. I attended, having heard they would hear ammendments to bill H.F. 4 but Representative Westrom (the Republican lead and former Chair of the committee) could not make it. Thus, they heard more testimony and pushed off ammendments for Monday.
Before going over the House testimony, I wanted to note the 4 Senators who voted against the RES. Senators Hann, Ingebrigsten, Pariseau, and Skoe all voted against passing S.F. 4. Given the amount of work that went into creating a strong compromise bill, it is too bad it could not leave the Senate unanimously. My previous RES coverage is available here.
Betsy Engelking from Xcel Energy presented their position and answered many questions. Before she could start though, Representative Peterson again reminded everyone that he is annoyed at the Senate's version and people testifying should keep their focus on HR 4.
Betsy started by discussing the varied and confusing requirements levied at Xcel by the legislature. I hadn't realized the wording of the original mandate to Xcel - that it ordered Xcel to purchase 425 MW of wind generation by a certain date. They fulfilled that with 10 year contracts. Xcel is under no obligation to renew those contracts and they start coming up soon.
I expect this is one of the reasons S.F. 4 removed the many different requirements on Xcel and folded them into one - 30% by 2020. This change freed up some 1125 MW of wind that could not previously be counted under the REO language to count toward the new standard and eases Xcel's burden somewhat while giving them full credit for their wind investments.
Xcel is aiming to have 1300MW of wind capacity installed by the end of this year. However, there is a question as to how much of that Xcel can own. They are currently building a 100MW wind farm. Some legislation, aimed at encouraging community investment (pre-dating the C-BED (Community-Based Energy Development) framework) said that Xcel could not own more than 100 MW of wind generation but it was unclear if that language applied to everything or just the 300 MW mandate that it added to Xcel's total mandates. So Xcel wants that language cleaned up so it can own more wind (when I read it the passage last year, I thought it only applied to the 300MW but I ain't no lawyer).
Interestingly, Xcel believes it will hold to its 2003 carbon dioxide emissions on its 30% by 2020 path. This is hardly going to stop global climate change, but it means that Xcel will not be increasingly its emissions.
In the period for questions and answers, Engelking discussed the recent cold snap and Xcel's call for consumers to limit their power usage due to tight availability of electricity. Representative Beard asked about the state of the grid, saying he had read that they had less than 4% spare capacity at times.
Engelking replied that they were caught in the middle of planned upgrades and an unexpected problem with one of the boilers at the Sherco unit (a huge coal plant). This is what left them with unexpectedly low spare capacity when the cold snap hit.
This would have been a great time for her to cast doubt on the plan to add so much wind onto the grid but she did not take it.
Beard went on to say he did not see the final purpose of this bill - was it for jobs? GHG reduction? Local economic development? And then he went and noted that they were all sitting there putting carbon dioxide into the air. What that has to do with anything, I'm not sure - I think most people were confused as to what human respiratory systems have to do with requiring additional renewable electricity on the grid.
For those who are not aware, there is a natural balance of GHGs in the world. GHGs are constantly being released and transformed in a continuous cycle. Human activity (from massive reliance on fossil fuels) has overwhelmed this process by releasing too many GHGs. Thus the point of controlling climate change is not to stop all GHG emissions but to return the natural system to a balanced state.
Toward the end of the meeting, Peterson made a plea for the Committee to pass the RES. He noted that they could pass it with a party-line vote but he did not want it to come to that. To that end, he asked that they set aside the C-BED issues until later and focus on passing an RES now.
On Monday, 12 Feb, the House Energy Committee will deal with amendments to H.F. 4 and we'll see what happens next.
Many people have recently been discussing carbon neutrality because so many companies are carbon washing themselves.
But beyond that is a bigger concern: that carbon neutrality could be seen as a cover-up for real action. As such, there would be a backlash against companies making carbon-neutral claims without having taken the appropriate precursory steps to maximize their energy efficiency and use the highest percentage possible of energy derived from clean, renewable resources.
I think we should distinguish between responsible carbon neutrality and irresponsible. I don't know where Wal-Mart would fit within this model if they use sustainable building practices (big if given their dependence on massive parking lots and such) and LED lighting. On the other hand, their entire business model is based on carbon-intensive long-distance transit.
A gathering of youth leaders from across the Midwest to discuss collaborative strategies for bringing global warming solutions to the Midwest featuring skill trainings, issue focuses, and action planning.
University of Wisconsin in Madison WI
The Energy Action Coalition; The Student PIRGS; Global Exchange; The Apollo Alliance; The Sierra Student Coalition
$15-$50 sliding scale
Global warming is the biggest threat of the 21st century, and there is little time to act. As students, we believe that we should take the lead in addressing the issue in the Midwest by promoting its clean energy potential on our campuses.
In the wake of last yearâ€™s conference success, we want to keep organizing to promote clean energy initiatives and defining a clean energy future. The 2007 Midwest Climate Action Conference will gather students from campuses all around the Midwest to exchange ideas, attend briefings on climate and energy policy, and organize coordinated actions to promote clean energy on their campuses.
Sponsored by the Energy Action Coalition, the first Midwest Climate Action conference, held in Madison, WI in March 2006 was a huge success. It drew 246 students from 12 states and 31 campuses and featured three keynotes speakers from the Midwest and the world, a choice of more than a dozen workshop sessions, as well as an action in the local community. It was also a unique opportunity to network with other environmentally-minded students from the Midwest that we want to make available again, with a focus on building a regional network and improving coordination of actions in Midwestern campuses.
The 2007 Midwest Climate Action Conference will feature:
Basic and advanced-skill trainings by professional grassroots organizers and energy policy experts on: Student/administrators relations with a focus on direct action, Development of community energym and Biodiesel
Forums and panel discussions on: The Campus Climate Challenge and the Energy Action Coalition effort to get 500 Universities to reduce their greenhouse gases emissions by 90% by 2050.
Successful campus energy efficiency campaigns
Opportunities to: Participate in organizing a regional campaign throughout the Midwest, Network with other students from various organizations, Improve your knowledge and get new perspectives on global warming.
On February 1, 14 Minnesota colleges kicked-off Campus Wars, a state-wide energy saving competition managed and led by students in the Minnesota College Energy Coalition and the Minnesota Public interest research group. The competition measures percent reduction in heating and electricity use from the previous 3-year average for the entire campus, so student life, academic facilities, and institutional operation are all involved.
As one of the organizers and a student coordinator at Macalester College, I was delighted to get picked up by the Minnesota Daily:
Students around the state, from Macalester to the U of Ms in the Twin Cities, Morris and Duluth, Carleton and more are pulling together to confront global warming and the energy crisis. We are moving forward with innovative on-campus solutions, institutional policies, state and federal advocacy, community energy development, and building a new campus culture of efficiency and innovation.
The Midwest Climate Action Conference, which will draw hundreds of youth from across the Midwest to confront global warming, is in 3 weeks.
Do news organizations have a responsibility to provide media coverage proportional to the scientific understanding of a topic? Is that even possible? (Assuming that the Minnesota Magazine really is a news organization.) Does that squelch minority opinions? (The world would still be flat if not for minority opinions.) Or does the need to maintain topic interest and controversy trump scientific consensus and editorial reporting?
Minnesota Magazine published an article on climate change (Sept/Oct 2006, "Hot Commodity", which elicited this response from a UMN alumni in the letters to the editor (Nov/Dec 2006):
Have you ever considered renaming your magazine Minnesota/Global Warming? It seems that every single issue is devoted to the idea of global warming, blames Bush, and allows no room for debate on the issues. A little, and I mean little, amount of research on the subject (Minnesota is a research University, right?) told me a few things not mentioned in your articles:
• The cost for America to comply with the Kyoto provisions have been estimated as high as $440 billion annually, would cost millions of jobs, and punish families to the tune of $2,700 a year.
• The United States got the worst of the deal when Clinton signed the Kyoto treaty: other countries were assigned lower reductions or completely exempted.
• The Senate voted unanimously 95-0 to reject the terms of the treaty.
• Satellite and weather balloon data show none of the warming found by land-based thermometers.
I look forward to the November–December magazine, which no doubt will mention how Christmas (excuse me, “holiday season”) will be ruined by global warming.
Which then elicited this response from a different alumni (Jan/Feb 2007):
[NAME] is apparently the new conservative voice that helps the alumni association indicate balanced coverage in the alumni magazine [Letters, May–June 2005, May–June 2006, and November–December 2006]. At what point does balanced coverage override the need for objective assessment of opinions?
Minnesota magazine may very well be reporting on global warming more than other relevant topics. However, no other issue in history has likely been studied and scrutinized on a consensus basis as much as the science on global warming. Scientifically, detractors are approaching the realm of those who believe, but can’t produce evidence, that the earth is 6,000 years old. However, the media insists on giving equal time to the small minority, which tells the wrong story to the public.
Bowers mixes uncited research and politics, taken as fact, and would do well to read http://gristmill.grist.org/skeptics [an independent environmental journalism Web site] on how to talk to climate change skeptics.
As many of you are aware, the Minnesota Senate's Renewable Energy Standard has been passed out of committee unanimously last week. Soon the entire Senate will act on it.
Meanwhile, the House Energy committee has taken the RES up. They are considering Representative Peterson's (DFL 20A) H.F. 4 bill which mirrors the language of S.F. 4. I discussed this language when observing the Senate's observations. You can listen to mp3 files of the Minnesota House Energy Committee meetings. This is quite convenient - I hope the Senate adopts similar information technology to encourage transparency.
The House has spent the better part of 2 sessions hearing testimony on H.F. 4 and will begin dealing with amendments and the link on Wednesday afternoon. As a result of the deal struck in the Senate committee, most of the stakeholders agreed to push the House to adopt the language of the Senate.
The testimony in front of the House Committee seems to reflect this. I may be mistaken, but the language of those testifying against the RES seems to have moderated as they say they believe it will be possible to meet a 25% by 2025 standard. However, the House Committee members have refused to roll over.
Former Chair of this committee, Representative Torrey Westrom (R 11A) seems to pursuing an anti-RES strategy based upon the marketing strategy called FUD (used famously by Microsoft against Linux). Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.
By spreading questionable information about the drawbacks of less well known products, an established company can discourage decision-makers from choosing those products over its wares, regardless of the relative technical merits.
Do not forget that Westrom's Committee did not allow a renewable energy standard to leave committee.
Representative Westrom's main tactic has been insinuating in several questions that the RES will not help rural Minnesota because it does not cover community development issues. This is a red herring because both the Senate and the House are hearing that as a separate issue. Yet Westrom has returned to this point even after being assured by the Chair that the committee will be visiting community ownership of wind. He actually went so far as to demand an answer as to what would happen if the Leg passes a strong RES but doesn't do anything for community ownership issues - as though this were not a major priority for both the DFL and the Pawlenty Administration.
Representative Westrom does not seem interested in the fact that coal plants offer far less community development prospects - especially when they are built in South Dakota (Big Stone I and II) for Minnesota demand. Strikes me that even if the Leg were to collectively get dementia after passing the RES and forget to deal with community-based energy development, rural Minnesota would still be considerably better off than under the status quo of coal and imported power.
Representative Magnus (R 22A) joined Westrom in challenging Fresh-Energy's Michael Noble. He tried to suggest Noble had downplayed Minnesota's place in wind power when he noted that the REO is in the middle of the pack in terms of the amount of renewable energy it demands. Magnus talked about Minnesota's commitment to wind (because we have the 4th highest amount of installed capacity in the country) and actually seemed to imply that Noble was impugning Minnesota by noting how many other states are more ambitious in their standards. Given Noble's role in forcing Minnesota to require wind development, Magnus' comments seem unnecessarily hostile and out of line.
Lest this is perceived to be a rant against one party, I have to note the obvious anger of bill author Peterson directed at Franklin from the Chamber of Commerce who had the temerity to reference the amended language of S.F. 4. It would seem that Rep. Peterson is upset at the outcome of the Senate Energy Committee because he feels he could have created a stronger bill in the House and forced more concessions from utilities. As it is, the media coverage of the Senate bill have largely focused heavily on Senator Anderson and not on Representative Peterson.
At any rate, he spoke harshly against Franklin and said he should respect the bill in front of the committee. Franklin was responding to a direct question from a Representative at the time and was defended by other members of the committee but it shows how seriously Peterson considers his bill and also suggests he may be unlikely to look favorably upon ammendments to square his bill with the new S.F. 4.
We'll see what happens in the next committee hearing on Wednesday afternoon.
The Chamber of Commerce reminded committee members that even seemingly minor rate increases are recieved differently by companies that pay thousands (or hundreds of thousands) for electricity per year whereas residential customers may pay only hundreds. He also noted that the Chamber of Commerce is working on a conservation program to encourage energy efficiency.
This is wrong on many levels. Apparently, some entrepreneurs have seized upon U.S. fears of funding terrorists via their SUVs and have started marketing terror-free oil.
The station is owned by the Terror-Free Oil Initiative, a group that promises to sell gasoline sourced from countries that "do not export or finance terrorism."
Even if you can reliably guarantee that the place from where you purchased your oil does not have ties to terror (incidental or purposeful), this is like saying you are buying your grain from farmer 'A' rather than farmer 'B.' Oil, like grain, is a commodity.
When you purchase a commodity, it does not matter from who you purchase it. What matters is that you are purchasing it. Your purchase affects the price and that is what matters. If you participate in the market, you help to keep the price high (supply and demand, folks). Therefore, the U.S. cannot dry up funding for terrorists by buying oil from different origins.
If we decide to stop buying oil from Saudi Arabia and purchase more from Russia (for instance), then China and India (for instance) would not be able to buy as much from Russia any more and would need to find a replacement source. So they will buy from Saudi Arabia.
It does not matter from where we get the oil, the problem is how much we require.
Regardless, most Americans do not know and probably do not care about the economic argument above. Oddly enough, they may not even care that much about terror. They care about price. Or so the writer of that blog entry suggests:
My fellow Omahans seem to be greeting the station with healthy dose of Midwest skepticism. "It's really going to depend on the cost," one told a local news station.
That is funny. Really funny.
I thought this story was interesting. It comes from the Session Weekly from 2 February, 2007. Session Weekly is a non-partisan publication that covers the Minnesota House.
Metro Transit, the bus service serving much of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, is trying to make its bus exhaust fumes more environmentally friendly.
"We are the largest user of fuel in the state of Minnesota, we we take environmental issuse quite seriously," Peter Bell, Metropolitan Council chairman, told the House Transportation Finance Division Jan. 25. No action was taken.
The system now uses ultra-low sulfur fuel, instead of just low sulfur fuel; since July 2006 it has used 5 percent biodiesel in its buses; and it is testing a fuel that is 20 percent biodiesel.
Currently the system operates three hybrid buses, and Bell said the intent is to purchase 150 more by 2011.
Doing so would likely be more expensive. A 40-foot hybrid bus now has a price tag of about $500,000 but he expects the cost to decrease with improved technology. The current diesel buses cost about $315,000.
However, Bull noted that Metro Transit would use 19,682 fewer gallons of diesel fuel over the 12-year lifespan of a hybrid bus. "The cost savings of the diesel doesn't make up for the $185,000 difference," he said. "But who knows what will happen to the price of fuel."
In addition to running more quietly, Bell said hybrid buses should emit 91 percent less particulate matter, mainly soot, and 85 percent less nitrogen oxide.
Other changes to the current fleet have reduced particulate matter emissions from 85 tons per year in 1995 to a projected 12.8 tons this year and 8 tons by 2011.
I first saw this story on Loon Commons - Minnesota Magazine published an article detailing problems with corn-based ethanol. Apparently, Governor Pawlenty did not like it, but the article appears to be pretty accurate. Read the original article here.
I found the 4th problem quite interesting - the one that discusses greenhouse gases.
Ethanol indeed reduces air pollution—in small doses. Ethanol has become a much-needed replacement for the gasoline additive MBTE (a possible carcinogen and pervasive groundwater pollutant) to help gasoline burn cleaner. Blending a small amount of ethanol with gasoline reduces carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and particulates.
But when you look at the entire life-cycle of ethanol—from growing to harvest to processing to combustion—burning E85 (85 percent ethanol) as fuel actually produces more carbon monoxide, volatile organics, particulates, and oxides of sulfur and nitrogen than an energy-equivalent amount of gasoline, according to the University’s study.
And ethanol doesn’t do much to address the big issue: global warming. "We found corn ethanol as currently produced saves about 12 percent greenhouse gases from gasoline," Hill says. And that’s if the corn is grown on existing fields. "If you take land out of CRP you may have a net greenhouse gas release." That would actually exacerbate global warming.
The actual GHG savings of corn-based E85 are doubtful. Though U studies show corn-based ethanol is energy positive, it does not offer a sizable reduction.
Because so much fossil fuel is burned just to make ethanol, turning our entire corn crop to ethanol production would reduce our fossil fuel use by just 2.4 percent.
This article highlights the need for many solutions to do a little each. Corn-based ethanol can do a little and Minnesota is right to encourage it. We need to make other changes as well though and the most important is to reduce what we demand.
By making housing developments in a transit-friendly manner and raising the price of gas (slowly, over time) via a tax, we will reduce demand for all liquid fuels. This is a key step in the process because no new fuel will allow us to continue and certainly not add to present consumption.