Monday, July 22, 2013

The Summer Vacation Anomaly

It’s been quite a while since the last post. A combination of improved weather to catch up on farming activities, taking some time off, and a couple repair projects are to blame. Before rolling up our sleeves on the MidAmerican property tax issue, let’s try to get back into the swing of things…

Since the blog is taking its summer vacation, tonight we start off with beer. My interweb surfing found an article by Deena Shanker about how sustainable the liquor you enjoy is, including the generated co2 estimate of your favorite beverage. Since I am enjoying an ale from my solar powered fridge, I’ll include a link to the brewer, Sierra Nevada.  I have been a fan of their product line for years( free endorsement) , but was very pleased when a friend related to me 2 years back that the brewery generates their own electricity onsite (more free endorsement).  As you can see from their sustainability page, the brewery is powered by a massive solar array, along with 4 fuel cells that also capture heat for onsite use. The webpage has nifty real time output meters of the fuel cells and solar array. The system is grid tied, but the brewery evidently is also able to “island”, and operate independent of the grid. My friend tells me that a winter storm caused most of Chico CA to lose electricity, while the brewery continued making their great domestic beer. Kind of makes you actually want to say - Merica!     

In the world of coal, I have long ago stopped keeping track of people with ties to that industry claiming renewable energy receives market distorting subsidies. This summer, a number of articles have surfaced that makes me wonder when king coal will give up their long embedded tax payer funded incentives to lead by example. Enviros always point out that coal price doesn’t reflect the environmental and health impacts the fuel causes, In short, the tax payer picks up the tab.  Since that point hasn’t moved public opinion to support stable renewable energy policy in the U.S. , lets continue with some items I found recently. The first -   Coal companies routinely win ‘competitive bids’ against no competition - prompted a review by the GAO since the government controls a lot of land with coal under it. A quote from the first link “The government’s longtime practice of auctioning coal mining rights to a single bidder may have cost taxpayers as much as $28.9 billion over the past 30 years.”   
 Also , the article links to  David Roberts @Grist, who also “wrote about a similarly sweet deal in March, in which Peabody — the sole bidder on a large seam — paid the government $1.11 per ton for coal they could sell to China at $123 a ton.   
A lot of my electric provider’s generation comes from the Powder River basin. Their power is some of the highest priced electricity in Iowa, I wonder what they would charge if they were paying full market value. Since economic logic seems to be suspended when we jump on the king coal crazy train , why don’t our elected officials and policy advocates head us in a better direction?  David Roberts also has advice for climate hawks and renewable energy backers in   Why coal has a hit on “America’s Got Talent”.  The environmental community hasn’t moved public opinon enough for decent renewable energy policy in “merica”, and David offers quotes like the following to stimulate some thought -   “Democrats promise the working class policies that will help them adapt to change — education and job training and a safety net. Republicans promise to stand athwart history and prevent further losses. It’s not about the policies, it’s about the stories, stories of a nobler past and the interlopers degrading or destroying it. Such stories have always had great power.
Democrats, or at least liberals, and especially climate hawks, are fated to forever be pushing the new, promising the future, projecting what could be. It’s an intrinsically weaker position and highlights the great need for creativity and storytelling.” 

I’ve tried to tell the Iowa and Midwest climate hawks that encouraging widespread local ownership in wind and solar is the way to build support for climate policy, so far, with little success. As Marty McFly said in BACK TO THE FUTURE – “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet, but your kids are gonna love it!”

Roberts also finishes by quoting Machiavelli , who offered advice for us all. 

“It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.”

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