Energy: Renewable Sources

Overall net generation of energy from renewable energy sources.
Overall net generation of energy from renewable energy sources.  

Related "Issue of the Day" Entries

Possible Model for Renewable Energy Generation
Published Monday, June 8th, 2009

From the state of Vermont comes the Vermont Energy Act of 2009, which will create and regulate new 10-20 year contracts—25 years for solar projects—for the sale of power produced by owners of small renewable energy facilities. So-called “Feed-in Tariffs” are used to encouraged the installation of grid-connected renewable energy systems by both individuals and businesses by making such systems a profitable investment and guaranteeing income that can help attract financing. Currently, Vermont’s Feed-In systems are at 2.2 megawatts capacity; the act sets a cap of 50 megawatts for such contracts. The linchpin for Governor Jim Douglas was the Act’s provision that the Vermont Public Services Board adjust the preliminary standard rates—varying by method of generation—set by the legislature.

Renewable energy is a priority policy issue for the Obama Administration. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides over $45 billion to encourage renewable energy production, which includes $4.5 billion for the creation of a smart grid to handle today’s generation needs. Renewable energy generation accounts for 7% of our total generation output in 2008; this is a product of a revival in renewable energy after a 12% drop in net generation in 2000.  Sources of renewable energy include biogenic waste, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar and wind.

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Oil Discoveries Amidst Renewable Push
Published Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

One of the major agenda items that President Obama wants to implement is the reduction of oil imports from the Middle East and Venezuela. Recently, Chevron has reported that a geological area known as the lower tertiary trend in the Gulf of Mexico, about 175 miles off the Louisiana coast, may produce between 3-15 billion barrels of oil for the US. At the top end of that range, it would account for a 50% boost US oil reserves and potentially US oil production.  Other findings suggest that the Ocean Continental Shelf may contain as much as 86 billion barrels; the Balkken Formation of Montana and North Dakota may hold 3.65 billion; and Colorado may have 2 trillion barrels of oil shale (rock).  If the US recovers over 800 billion barrels, that’s triple Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves, yet sources will not be available for 5, 10, to 15 years.

The US uses 70% of its oil for transportation (e.g., cars, trains, planes), and 1.5% goes to electricity generation, of which produces two thirds of all US electricity. The US has been using Natural Gas to generate electricity since before WWII, which has tripled in the last 20 years. Renewable or ‘Green Energy’ provides only 7% of all electricity generated nationally, at levels generally flat since the early 1980s and less than the late 1990s.

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Hydroelectric Power Comes at a Cost
Published Thursday, March 12th, 2009

In the news, the Sierra Club, an environmentalist group, has opposed the plan to import hydroelectric power from Quebec. In a statement released by the group, “New York Power Authority is in preliminary discussions and considering the liability of a new contract with Hydro Quebec,” a Canadian supplier of hydroelectricity. The Contract would call for the installation of four new dams, which the Club said would destroy the Romaine River of Eastern Quebec.

Water is the leading renewable energy source used by electric utilities to generate electric power; it accounts for nearly 6% of all electricity produced in the United States. Hydroelectric power facilities can generate enough power to supply 28 million households with electricity, the equivalent of nearly 500 million barrels of oil. Many of the best locations to set up hydroelectric facilities have already been developed. Currently, researchers are working on advancing turbine technologies that will not only help maximize the use of hydroelectric power, but also minimize adverse environmental effects. Environmental effects include damming rivers and streams, which affects the habitats of the local plant, fish, and animal life.

Posted in Energy, Environment | No Comments »

The Final Stimulus Package
Published Friday, February 20th, 2009

This week in Denver, the President signed the $787 billion stimulus package that streaked its way through Congress. The final bill is split into 36% for tax cuts and 64% percent in spending and money for social programs. Overall, it is $38 billion different from the original plan President Obama had introduced earlier in January. Highlights include:

• $787 billion total, $38 billion subtracted from original
• $308 billion in total spending, $142 billion subtracted (Federal Budget)
• $190 billion in Federal Aid for Education, Public Safety, Low-income, Individual and Health Care (Number of U.S. citizens below the poverty level)
• $288 billion in tax relief ($800—down from $1000—tax cuts for families, $400 tax cuts for individuals through social security payroll deductions, Business, Manufacturing, Economy, Infrastructure, Energy and other tax cuts), $13 billion added (Tax as a percentage of GDP)
• $48 billion for infrastructure, $42 billion subtracted (Spending on infrastructure)
• $90 billion Medicaid aid to states, $3 billion added (Public and private expenditures for health care)
• $53.6 billion to aid state in education, $25.4 billion subtracted
(Spending for the Department of Education)
• $44.6 billion for additional school funding to balance education budgets, prevent cutbacks and modernize schools, $3.6 billion added (Average finances by school district size and Higher education spending)
• $45 billion to encourage renewable energy production, $9 billion subtracted
(Non-Renewable v. Renewable)
• $18.6 billion for health care technology incentives and research for effective treatments, $5.4 billion subtracted (Cost per patient per day and per stay)
• $16 billion for Science/technology, equal (Research funds for science and technology)
• $15.6 billion to increase Pell Grants by $500, $0.6 billion added
(Rising tuition)

Of course, this is just the combined highlights; the Stimulus and Recovery Act is well over 1,000 pages long.  The administration, in an effort to become more tranparent, has set up a site in which anyone can track how and where the money is being spent:

Posted in Budget, Economics, Education, Energy, Healthcare, Poverty, Research, Taxes, Transportation | No Comments »

The Stimulus Package, Before the Politicking
Published Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Last night, the US House of Representatives passed its version of President Obama’s Stimulus package.  The original package-as of January 15th-before the House debated and changed the bill, contained the following provisions:

• $825 billion total
• $550 billion in new spending. (Federal Budget)
• $275 billion in tax relief ($1,000 tax cut for families, $500 tax cut for individuals through SS payroll deductions). (Tax as a percentage of GDP)
• $ 90 billion for infrastructure (Spending on infrastructure)
• $ 87 billion Medicaid aid to states. (Numbers of enrollees)
• $ 79 billion school districts/public colleges to prevent cutbacks. (Average finances by school district size)
$ 41 billion for additional school funding ($14 billion for school modernizations and repairs, $13 billion for Title I, $13 billion for IDEA special education funding, $1 billion for education technology) (Spending for the Department of Education)
$ 54 billion to encourage energy production from renewable sources (Non-Renewable v. Renewable)
• $ 24 billion for “health information technology to prevent medical mistakes, provide better care to patients and introduce cost-saving efficiencies” and “to provide for preventative care and to evaluate the most effective health care treatments.” (Cost
per patient per day and per stay)
• $ 16 billion for science/technology ($10 billion for science facilities, research, and instrumentation; $6 billion to expand broadband to rural areas). (Research funds for science and technology)
• $ 15 billion to increase Pell grants by $500 (Rising tuition)
• $ 6 billion for “higher education modernization.” (Higher education Spending)

Posted in Budget, Education, Energy, Healthcare, Research, Taxes, Transportation | No Comments »

Infrastructure and Renewable Energy Policy Highlighted
Published Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

In the inaugural address, President Obama called for a new energy policy. “Each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet…We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories… We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.”

About 13% of our primary energy comes from renewable sources, with most of this coming from traditional biomass like wood-burning.  Hydro power is the next largest source, providing 2-3%, and modern technologies like geothermal, wind, solar, and marine energy together produce less than 1% of total world energy demand.   The technical potential for their use is very large.  However, without the available spending on an improved infrastructure—as President Obama suggests—the efforts to increase the use of renewable sources will be impacted by an aging grid, not designed to support such sources.   Therefore, the President wants to spend out of his proposed stimulus package “$150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of bio-fuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial scale renewable energy, invest in low emissions coal plants, and begin transition to a new digital electricity grid.

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Differing Energy Policy Approaches and Limits of the Grid
Published Friday, August 29th, 2008

During this Presidential Race, John McCain and Barack Obama have criticized the Bush Administration policies regarding Climate Change. However, as reported by the Financial Times, both candidates have different ideas for a new energy policy but no word on how much it will cost us to implement them.

From Denver, Barack Obama stresses energy security and energy independence in the hope of change which will come from renewable resources. 1) Provide relief in the way of tax relief, 2) invest $150 Billion in a clean energy future, 3) Reduce import of crude oil, 4)Increase use of hybrid cars to 1 Million by 2015, 5) Increase renewable sources of energy 10% by 2012 and 25% by 2025, 6) reduce greenhouse gases by 80% with a cap and trade program by 2050. There is only a scant, vague mention in his policy bluebook of infrastructure upgrades which are needed now to support his ambitious plan.

John McCain’s new ‘Lexington Project’ would stick with tried and true non-renewable sources such as 1) expand domestic oil production, 2) provide funding for clean coal research, 3) build new nuclear power plants and 4) expanding the use of our Domestic supplies of Natural Gas, 5) support a cap and trade program and 6) a $300 Million incentive to anyone who can build a more efficient battery. McCain only mentions grid infrastructure to emphasize electric car production and energy supply.

According to the New York Times, our efforts at creating renewable sources such as wind are running into grid bottle necks which ultimately shut down the wind farms. In July of this year, Joseph T. Kelliher Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stated that the cost allocations of grid infrastructure improvements are convoluted and split between a regional commissions, independent operation systems and individual utilities.

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Learn More

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration: Renewable Energy -
Renewable energy utilizes natural resources such as sunlight, wind, tides and geothermal heat, which are naturally replenished. Renewable energy technologies range from solar power, wind power, and hydroelectricity to biomass and biofuels for transportation. About 13 percent of primary energy comes from renewable, with most of this coming from traditional biomass like wood-burning. Hydro power is the next largest source, providing 2-3%, and modern technologies like geothermal, wind, solar, and marine energy together produce less than 1% of total world energy demand. The technical potential for their use is very large, exceeding all other readily available sources.

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