Friday, August 16, 2013

Distributed Generation and Climate Policy Part 3

I’m going to post once more about the climate debate in an entertaining manner, then, since school will be  starting soon and a lot of summer is behind us… it’s time to get more serious. My next post will be an update on my effort to determine if MidAmerican is paying the correct amount of property taxes at their wind project in Pocahontas County. The quick answer is that I don’t think they are, but I’ll get into those details next time. I hope all the counties where MEC is planning wind projects thoroughly investigate this.
Let’s see… distributed generation and the great climate debate - part 3. If you have a sense of humor, a thick skin, and are strong of heart, proceed… otherwise… you have been warned.  

It seems that climate hawks and conservatives are totally unwilling to talk to each other about advancing climate policy that will help us, and the next generation more importantly. Liberals advocate for lifestyle changes, carbon taxes, and rapid deployment of renewables. The downfall, I think, is that they are content to allow most of the public passively watch this transition instead of encouraging widespread ownership of renewables.  I’ve been to more than one conference where the conversations sounded a lot like this. Remember, thick skins everyone. The full episode of that clip is here.  For the record, I drive a hybrid, but since it won’t do all the jobs at the farm, a gas guzzler still resides at the acreage as well. 
Conservatives have been just as disappointing to me. I tried to find a conservative clip in order to stay “fair and balanced”.  So far, nothing has surfaced. Feel free to send something my way.  A lot of conservatives seem to be here. Some of them seem to be here

David Roberts seems to think that conservatives have always been fated to oppose climate change policy. His has several recent thoughtful posts on this. I always enjoy reading his posts, but it seems to me that if conservatives had no choice but opposing climate policy, climate hawks seem to be fated to only try and change them, instead of advocating for policy that has beat this stalemate in other countries.

Chris Nelder wrote a very thoughtful piece about peoples tribal tendancies-      Storytelling our energy future – a fun quote -    “We believe people that we like and trust, and this is the basis of most of our beliefs. We don’t feel the same degree of belief with people we don’t like and trust, because it’s not emotionally and associatively compatible.”    Chris tells a personal story about how he felt both tribes wanted nothing to do with him. Take the middle position at your own risk. I found another post by Chris that discusses why he thinks current climate policy efforts have failed and why he’s ready to try “climate judo”, a national feed in tariff (FiT) instead.  Another quote - “A national FiT would take essentially the opposite approach to carbon mitigation than has been tried to date. Carbon taxes are all stick, while a FiT is all carrot. The benefits of this approach should be obvious.
It would create an alternative supply to fossil fuels first. It would not raise fears about being left in the dark. As the price of renewable power falls, it would naturally force coal and natural gas off the grid. Incumbents would find themselves losing creditworthiness as their business models are disrupted, as is already happening in Europe. That’s climate judo! “ 

Chris lays out a scenario where this could be done administratively instead of trying to get our dysfunctional senate and house to act. I’m definitely ready for a change to the current efforts and I like it, but unfortunately I think too many of us are stuck in zero sum game to be ready to talk about it yet. I’m hoping we don’t stay there.                

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Distributed Generation and Climate Policy (No Zombies This Time)

It seems some folks didn’t care for my last post. They reserved their comments for some direct emails to me instead of using the comment button below, but hey, at least it got some people thinking about the points I raised.  I’ve been observing the efforts to get climate policy in place for years. The climate hawks and enviros seem to prefer using messaging that climate change is “scary” and that “people need to change their behavior”, and pay more through taxes, appliance upgrades, etc. In other words, they mostly spend a lot of time saying “Hey everyone, why don’t you start listening to Me!”  Meanwhile, they seem to be content to allow the renewable energy profits to be controlled by the same companies that control the energy industry now.  Not a recipe for building public support for stable renewable energy or climate policy.  It’s also not a recipe to get people thinking about acting more sustainably.  People need to get their hands on renewable technology and “take that solar array out for a spin”.  
In Iowa, that strategy has played out by allowing most of our wind energy to be owned by Warren Buffet, who hasn’t parked his coal train or shut down his coal plants. 

Conservative messaging seems focused on the cost of mitigating climate change, acknowledging climate change is occurring, but denying humans are causing it, not picking winners in energy technology, and preserving status quo.   Again, Advantage MidAmerican Energy, owned by Buffet. 

I promised no zombies in this post, so let’s look at some articles by folks who are truly using their brains to think about what we should do. 

First, does anyone see a trend here? The public seems to be more polarized and ginned up than ever, making legislative progress on this issue seem unlikely, while the renewable energy profits keep going to a lot of the same companies that are responsible for most of our co2 emissions.  Both of our political party’s seem to be doing an equally poor job of looking out for the little guy on this issue. Here’s an interesting post by R J Eskow , who thinks he knows why.   

Next, Chris Nelder seems to think that climate hawks need to change their messaging as well. Check out his post -   To change behavior around energy scarcity and climate change, focus on transitions and solutions, not danger and loss.”  Chris also had an interesting recent post titled - Obama’s new climate plan isn’t nearly enough, in which he maintains - “clamping down on emissions is the wrong strategy”. “It engenders direct resistance from the fossil fuel industry, which is firmly entrenched and prepared for that battle after decades of fighting it. Instead of trying to stuff up the tailpipe, we should focus on what fuel we put into the engine.
A third reason is that stifling emissions will not automatically create an alternate energy supply. It might just result in rising power prices and leave us struggling to maintain adequate supply while flirting with grid outages.”
And sure enough, an internet search turned up Britain turns to DR and distributed generation to solve its power woes.  It seems that countries growing reliance on wind coupled with strict carbon mandates may cause power shortages in a couple years. Distributed generation to the rescue!

Chris is a proponent of widespread ownership of renewables, using a national feed in tariff and “climate Judo” (great one Chris!) to advance renewable and climate policy.  Using your opponent’s weight against him seems to be a viable option when you read How the far right developed an unlikely interest in solar energy.  Which examines how fossil fuel companies in the state of Georgia and Australia were thwarted in their attempt to gut renewable energy policy by conservatives.   
And, finally, just to prove that you NEVER know what an internet search engine will turn up, and the fact that I’m still trying to better entertain blog visitors, here’s a link to quite a new agey post- Greed Ate Winter. - “A foundational aspect of Buddhist teaching is that suffering comes from greed, hatred, and delusion, hence the reference - our collective greed leads to excess consumption, and therefore emissions, and therefore climate change.”  
Hmmmm… It seems to me that this locally owned wind – solar- biomass idea just might help channel that “greed energy” into a more healthy care for the environment and a better sustainable and stable financial future.  It might also get us talking TO each other, instead of PAST each other.  

I put his post together pretty fast, so be gentle. However, I’ve been thinking lately of the quote   Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, attributed to Albert Einstein. 
Frankly, it’s way past high time for a new discussion of this issue.   

Friday, August 2, 2013

Zombies, Distributed Generation, and Climate Policy

Since the blog seems to be on summer vacation, I’m trying to be more entertaining , and less wonky.  I’m a big fan of distributed scale renewables and microgrids. I’ve previously cited economic opportunities, increased grid resiliency, climate change, and environmental protections as reasons to go small with renewables. However, I had not considered perhaps the most important reason of all. According to Leia Guccione & James Sherwood @, “the most compelling reason to invest in microgrids: to prepare for the zombie apocalypse.” Enjoy their light-hearted discussion of the serious subject of microgirds and small scale renewables -  Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse: Are Microgrids Our Only Chance?  As the authors note, “Scoff at your own peril”.
According to, Some Iowans might already be infected.  The tone of this article is kind of disappointing though. It seems the climate hawks are displaying some zombie-like tendencies of their own. Climate hawks have been using the same messaging for several years, but haven’t built much public support for climate policy. Yet they stay the course, hoping for different results.  The author connects the dots that the opinions of some of the folks mentioned in this article are likely the position of their campaign funders as much as the candidates themselves, and also that public opinion is swayed by the deep pockets of vested interests who make lots of $ under the current system.  But both sides of this debate seem unwilling to compromise and start discussing policies that the public actually likes and that help lower co2 emissions. When policy makers and advocates start talking about things like locally owned renewables and full campaign funding disclosures, then maybe we can be assured that they aren’t roaming the streets looking for brains.

Otherwise, maybe we should start saving up for our own microgrids.