Price of oil, coal is high, worldwide

Posted on 19. May, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

The news out of the Gulf of Mexico is sickening, but it is hardly the only environmental disaster associated with fossil fuels in recent news. Thirty coal miners are trapped in Turkey in an explosion that occurred May 17, following similar coal mine disasters in Russia, China and West Virginia.

A wire story in Sunday’s newspaper about environmental devastation from oil drilling put the overall cost in context. “Quest for oil leaves trail of damage across the globe” tells of impacts from Alberta to Newfoundland to Nigeria. The point of the story is America is driving the quest for more and more oil, but when the impacts are not felt inside our borders, Americans seem not to care.

Despite calls for more domestic drilling and new sources of energy, America’s reliance on foreign oil has climbed steadily over the years, from 44.5 percent of consumption in 1995 to 57 percent in 2008.

“Spills, leaks and deliberate discharges are happening in oil fields all over the world, and very few people seem to care,” said Judith Kimerling, a professor of law and policy at the City University of New York and the author of “Amazon Crude,” a book about oil development in Ecuador.

A particularly chilling quote was this one:

“We see frantic efforts being made to stop the spill in the USA,” Bassey added. “In Nigeria, oil companies largely ignore their spills, cover them up and destroy people’s livelihood and environments.”

The old adage “Think globally, act locally” may need some rethinking if we’re to be honest about our country’s energy policies and practices.

Glacier National Park centennial – a tough birthday

Posted on 13. May, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

Age has not been kind to Glacier National Park.The gorgeous million-acre park in northwestern Montana celebrated its 100th birthday today. But many of its glaciers have melted, and scientists predict the rest may not last another decade.

That’s how the story begins about the celebration of the first 100 years of Glacier National Park. The Associated Press story continues:

Many experts consider Glacier Park a harbinger of Earth’s future, a laboratory where changes in the environment will likely show up first.

“What national parks all give us is, in effect, a controlled landscape where we can see the natural and climatic processes at work,” said Steve Running, a University of Montana professor and co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in 2007 for his work on climate change.

Average temperatures have risen in the park 1.8 times faster than the global average, said Dan Fagre, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist.

The change is visible to the naked eye, with the vast moraines left behind as the giant glaciers melt away. Climate change is blamed for the increasing size and frequency of wildfires, and lower stream flows as summer progresses.

What this all means for the bears, wolves and other big predators in the park is unclear, Fagre said.

The article notes that there were 150 named glaciers in the Park 150 years ago, with just 25 glaciers today. It is possible they will all be gone as soon as 2020.

Yes, there is real urgency to our efforts to build the Greater Echanis wind projects. Oil spills, coal mine disasters and disappearing glaciers are signals to us all that we need to take urgent action to reverse our dependence on fossil fuels.




Oregonian editorial links oil spill, coal tragedies to cost of fossil energy

Posted on 30. Apr, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

The lead editorial in today’s Oregonian, “Oil, Water & wind” connects the dots on some of the costs of fossil fuels and calls for increased focus on renewable energy.

The editorial notes:

It is fitting that the $2billion Cape Wind project, which would include 130 windmills built about five miles off Cape Cod, would take a big step forward just as crews raced to respond to one of the worst offshore oil drilling accidents in American history.

For while oil is today’s main offshore energy resource, the wind ought to be tomorrow’s.

The editorial points to the fact that offshore wind development is unlikely in Oregon’s deep coastal waters, which makes the embrace of Cape Wind seem a touch less convincing.

You’re still not going to see offshore wind turbines coming to the Oregon coast anytime soon. The ocean off the Oregon shore quickly deepens to more than 1,000 feet, too deep for anything but floating wind turbines anchored to the sea floor.

But the editors are no doubt correct to connect the dots:

But unless we miss our guess, history will show that this was a significant week in the evolution of the nation’s energy systems. At the very time it struggled to contain the oil cascading from a shattered offshore well, the federal government recognized the enormous power of mixing water and wind.

The urgency of developing all high quality wind resources is indeed compelling, not just in light of the offshore oil spill. In the last month, more than 30 people have died in coal mining tragedies in the US alone. Coal is still the largest source of electric generation in the country. Of course, the impacts to health from burning coal extend far beyond the victims of tragic mining accidents.

Hopefully, these awful accidents will help galvanize opinion that decisions about these critical projects need to take much more than NIMBYism into account as we wrestle with slowing global climate change and rebuilding our economy based on green jobs.

Cape Wind decision draws broad support

Posted on 29. Apr, 2010 by crowley in Blog, Renewable Energy News

The State House News Service in Boston led its first story on the Cape Wind decision with this sentence:

SALAZAR APPROVES CAPE WIND: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved a 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound Wednesday as “the final decision of the United States of America,” saying he was “very confident” the long-awaited verdict would withstand opposition.

State House News also noted statements from the following organizations:

– The Conservation Law Foundation, Mass Audubon, and the Union of Concerned Scientists applauded the decision in a joint statement. The groups said the project’s nine-year review was “much longer than is typical for a traditional coal power plant” and predicted Cape Wind “could meet as much as 75 percent of the electricity demand for Cape Cod and the Islands.”  John Kassel, president of Conservation Law Foundation, said in a statement: “Today is a turning point for New England in which we can start to turn smokestacks into wind turbines.  It is fitting that Massachusetts, which has no coal or oil of its own to burn, should be first in the water with offshore wind, a carbon-free energy source which we have in abundance.”

– The National Resources Defense Council said the decision “paves the way for other facilities to get off the ground nationwide.”  In a statement, council president Frances Beinecke said, “Cape Wind represents a significant clean energy first for America.  It shows us we can repower our country, we can do it the right way, and we can start today. Renewable energy projects like these not only help fight climate change, they can create jobs and play a central role in our economic recovery.”

– LCV President Gene Karpinski and Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters Executive Director Lora Wondolowski said: “We applaud Secretary Salazar’s approval of the Cape Wind Project, an important step towards transitioning our nation to cleaner, more secure sources of energy. We have sat idle while countries in Europe have continued to reap the benefits of offshore wind development and now it is time to take advantage of clean energy sources in our own backyard, which will help make America more energy independent and curb dangerous carbon pollution. After a long process that took an exhaustive look at the environmental impacts of the Cape Wind Project, we are pleased that Secretary Salazar came to the right decision in granting its approval.  Cape Wind represents a tremendous opportunity for renewable energy in the Commonwealth and will help make Massachusetts a leader in the nation as we transition to a clean energy economy.”

A story in the on-line editions of The Boston Globe quoted George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, saying it was “a critical step toward ending our reliance on foreign oil and achieving energy independence.”

“Those who continue to resist and litigate are simply on the wrong side of history,” he said.


NYTimes – strong support for Cape Wind

Posted on 26. Apr, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

The long-awaited decision on the Cape Wind project is due this week. The off-shore wind project has pitted renewable energy advocates against neighbors and others in a battle that has raged for years.

The New York Times has taken a strong position in favor of the project. Today’s editorial concludes as follows:

The criticisms of the project do not come close to outweighing its enormous promise. Cape Wind would be located in what may be the most propitious offshore site in America: shallow water protected from heavy waves; strong, steady winds; and close proximity to thousands of consumers and industries that would benefit from clean power. The secretary’s choice is clear.

Read the editorial in its entirety here.

Washington Sierra Club celebrates Earth Day: shut Centralia coal plant

Posted on 25. Apr, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General

A story in the Sunday April 25th Columbian newspaper highlighted efforts by the Washington State chapter of the Sierra Club to close the Centralia coal-burning power plant.  A link to the full story is here.

The story begins: “The Sierra Club brought its “Beyond Coal” campaign to Vancouver last week on the eve of Earth Day, urging an audience of 60 to pressure Gov. Chris Gregoire to close the state’s only coal-fired plant sooner rather than later.

“As a first step, Doug Howell, who directs the club’s Coal-Free Washington Campaign, asked members of the audience to write to the governor and ask her to set a time and place for public hearings she had promised 11 months ago on the future of the Centralia plant…”

Nationally, the Sierra Club has made reducing emissions from coal fired power plants a focus of their efforts. According to the American Wind Energy Association, generating electricity from fossil fuels creates 6 billion tons of CO2 per year. A study suggests that number will rise to 6.75 billion tons per year by 2030.

Poll: US voters overwhelmingly support increased use of wind power and national energy standard

Posted on 25. Apr, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released results of a national poll last week that shows strong support for increased use of renewable energy – especially wind power – to reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and rebuild the nation’s economy.

“The poll’s bottom line is clear:  An overwhelming majority of American voters, on a bipartisan basis, want more wind power and support a national RES (renewable energy standard) to increase its use,” said Anna Bennett and Neil Newhouse, partners respectively with Bennett, Petts & Normington and Public Opinion Strategies, the firms that conducted the poll.

“Wind works for America and that is why voters want Congress to pass a strong national RES” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “Americans understand that an RES will mean new manufacturing jobs, less dependence on imported energy, and more pure, clean, affordable energy for our country.”

Poll highlights include:

–An overwhelming, bipartisan majority — 89% — of American voters (including 84% of Republicans, 88% of Independents and 93% of Democrats) — believe increasing the amount of energy the nation gets from wind is a good idea.

–A majority of Americans — 56% — disapprove of the job Congress is doing on renewable energy and 67% believe Congress is not doing enough to increase renewable energy sources such as wind.

–A majority of Americans — 82% — believe the nation’s economy would be stronger (52%) or the same (30%) if we used more renewable energy sources like wind.

–A majority of Americans — 77% — support a national Renewable Electricity Standard.  This support extends across party lines and includes 65% of Republicans, 69% of Independents, 92% of Democrats.

The poll was conducted March 27-28 by Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies and Anna Bennett of Bennett, Petts & Normington.  The poll sampled a national survey of 600 likely voters. The margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points. Poll details are available here on the AWEA web site.

Tornado in Harney County keeping friends busy

Posted on 21. Apr, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General

On Tuesday afternoon, April 20, a tornado touched down in the vicinity of Highway 78 near Crane. Reports from friends say the local Coop lost a mile of power lines and customers were without power for several hours. Thankfully, we have not heard of any injuries or other serious damage. Here is a link to photos of the storm from KGW’s web site.

Our thoughts and best wishes go out to our friends in Harney County!

A visitor to Denmark writes…

Posted on 06. Apr, 2010 by crowley in Blog, Renewable Energy News

A friend recently attended a “Green Grid” symposium in Denmark. The lessons he took away from that tiny country, with a population only slightly larger than Oregon’s, were instructive.

Denmark used to get more than 90% of their energy from petroleum, but the 1974 oil crisis woke them up big time. They not only decided to wean themselves from petroleum as a fuel source, but also promoted development of renewable energy technology – in particular, wind power. Denmark now gets 20% of their electricity from wind power, planning to hit 50% in ten years.

Maybe even more impressive, Denmark increased their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) 40% from 1990 to 2007, on the back of its expansion in wind power, renewable energy technology development and export of wind turbines. At the same time, they decreased their carbon emissions 14%.

The visitor ended his brief report, “This is our future once we find the political will to follow it. I can hardly wait.”

You can read his report on the Danish wind industry’s web site, here.

Harold Otley – age 92

Posted on 02. Mar, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General

We learned that one of our friends and landowners in Diamond, Oregon, passed away last month. Harold Otley would have been 93 in May. He was out working that morning, as he did every day, on his ranch.

In many ways, Harold is typical not just of his generation in Harney County, but of the men and women who make up the back bone of that very special region. Harold worked until he died.  He had a small hoist installed on the back of his truck so that even in his nineties he could lift things in and out of it. He started a new venture within the last few years to grow potatoes. He didn’t hear well but he didn’t miss much, either.

Harold served on the Board of the Harney Electric Cooperative for decades and missed a small handful of meetings in that time. He was conscientious and committed to his family and the community.

One could not help but be impressed by Harold’s energy and presence. He will be missed by us. We extend our condolences to the Otley family and the Diamond community at his passing.

Obituary from the Burns Times Herald.