Clean Energy Initiative

Emergence of Shale Gas Technology is a Dominant Political and Economic Force

In the words of the iconic Bob Dylan, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”.  Right now, the wind is blowing in the direction of hydraulic fracturing of natural gas.   I recently attended a conference sponsored by the Howard Baker Forum and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory which spotlighted the emergence of Shale Gas technology as a dominant political and economic force in our country.

Over the past five years, improvements in drilling technologies have enabled us to unlock enormous domestic supplies of previously unrecoverable natural gas in deep shale deposits.  Shale gas is gas which is trapped within shale formations which are fine grained sedentary rocks that can be rich with oil or natural gas.  The production of natural gas from shale formations, known as hydraulic fracturing, has rejuvenated the natural gas industry.  In April, for the first time ever, electricity from natural gas equaled that of coal – both producing 32% of our nation’s electricity.  

Natural gas has a number of advantages as a fuel source starting with the price; right now natural gas is very inexpensive.  In addition, natural gas has dramatically reduced our carbon emissions and decreases our reliance on coal.  The net out for consumers is lower electricity prices.  

Daniel Yergin, noted energy expert and founder of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, spoke to the conference on the importance of natural gas as a way for our nation to become self sufficient, a theme which was echoed by a number of other participants including Amy Myers Jaffee of Rice University’s Institute of Public Policy who also emphasized the European nation’s declining dependence on OPEC.  

 There can be do doubt about the benefits of natural gas, but there are still hazards from shale fracking which include methane, water contamination, noise pollution, and air pollution. If people in communities feel as if they are being harmed by fracking, this could backfire and communities could reject this technology..  

It is important to that industry and government get the rules right.  Regulatory laws must be transparent and easily understood.  There must be dedicated effort to reduce methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon monoxide.  It is also important that industry continue to refine drilling technology to find ways to drill a well with a smaller imprint on our environment.   What technologies can be used with to minimize the impact on water? 

This cannot happen overnight.  It is easy to assume this fracking technology developed overnight but in fact it has taken some 30 years to get technology that ‘developed overnight’.  

For more information on this conference click here

Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Energy Can Save Our Planet

Before I write a glowing piece on Danny Kennedy, I must disclose that he  is a good friend of NDN/New Policy Institute.  In fact, in June of 2011, we held a lively and enlightening panel discussion, The Speed of Solar, featuring Danny Kennedy of Sungevity, along with Rachel Tronstein, a Special Advisor on Clean Energy for Department of Energy and Andrea Luecke, Director of the Solar Foundation.  Danny, with his boundless enthusiasm and a keen business eye for the economics of rooftop solar, embodies the spirit of our Clean Energy Initiative which focuses on thought leaders, ideas and policies which move ahead  our transition to a cleaner, safer and more distributed energy paradigm.  

To know Danny Kennedy is to know a fascinating individual.  To say he is a passionate environmental advocate is almost an understatement.  As an August 9 article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine pointed out, Kennedy once risked his life to protect the ecological balance of our planet.  When he was working for Greenpeace in Papua New Guinea, he nearly died of malaria while trying to document the environmental damage Chevron was causing to the region.  Thankfully, the villagers rowed him in their dugout canoe to receive medical assistance and he recovered.  Typical of Danny, as soon as he was well enough, he immediately went back to his environmental work.   There are a lot of thoughtful, brilliant environmental policy advocates in Washington, DC, but I don't know a one who risked their own life in behalf of these policies.

Danny s best known in the United States for his company,  Sungevity, which he founded with Alec Guttel and Andrew Birch.  Sungevity focuses on solar services  instead of only solar panels.  Sungevity  and the customer sign a solar lease - then Sungevity installs the customer's solar panels, maintains, monitors and repairs them for the duration of their lease with Sungevity.  Sungevity says their lease payment will be less than your old electricity bill.  This innovative business model has brought well earned success to Sungevity and to Kennedy.

If, quite literally dedicating his life to a cleaner planet, and founding a highly successful solar rooftop business were not enough, Danny Kennedy has recently written a book, Rooftop Revolution:  How Solar Energy Can Save our Economy - and our Planet  - from Dirty Energy.  It is a magnificent book which underscores the huge planetary benefits of solar energy while pointing out the massive economic benefits of going solar.  I guarantee that this book will be an exhilarating read on the benefits of harnessing our sunshine for energy.   You can purchase this book by going to Amazon or at  You won't regret it.

Romney Campaign, Exelon, and Senator Alexander Lead Fight Against Wind PTC

The movement to derail the wind energy production tax credit continues to have legs.  Senator Lamar Alexander, (R-TN) wrote a highly publicized op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week where he called named the PTC "Puff the magic drag on the economy".  Them's fightin words from a Senator whose state has it's own share of nuclear energy.  Senator Alexander's stand on PTC buttresses  Mitt Romney's energy policy which is pro fossil fuels and anti renewable energy.  The Romney/Ryan campaign is opposed to the PTC.  One of the biggest and most heavily funded entites opposed to PTC is the nation's largest nuclear utility, Exelon.  Exelon's CEO John Rowe retired this year and was replaced by Chris Crane who previously ran the utility's nuclear division.  Crane has amplified  Exelon campaign against the PTC.   Rowe cultivated an image as “green” utility executive, supporting a carbon tax and lobbying in favor of an “all of the above” energy strategy.  Exelon currently gets 92% of it's electricity from 17 nuclear power plants.  This year, Exelon spent $5.1million to influence Congress against the PTC.  

On the other side, there is concern that ending the PTC will result in a considerable loss of jobs.  Siemens earlier this week said it was laying off 600 workers at it's wind plants in Iowa and Kansas and would terminate 330 workers.  American Wind Energy Association says that 75,000 jobs are tied to the wind industry and they have a concern that nearly half of those jobs will disappear if the PTC is not extended by January 1.

House of Representatives to Hold Debate on GOP "War on Coal" Legislation, Japan to Back Off Nuclear Free Policy


Today in the House of Representatives, there will be an open debate on the GOP legislation to dismantle greenhouse gas rules.  In a variety of ways, this bill would also nix, soften or delay other White House policies that Republicans have come to call  “war on coal” that will hurt the economy.  More reasonably, the Democrats argue that Republicans’ plans would upend important public health protections.  Importantly, they say low cost natural gas is the true source of the  coal industry’s woes - not federal environmental rules.  Final vote on this will be tomorrow, Friday.   Also today, the Energy and Commerce Committee panel will gather to discuss legislation that would block carbon emissions standards for power plants until federal officials declare that carbon storage technology is economically feasible.  

Japan seems to be backing off their original plan to eliminate the use of nuclear energy.  Last week the Japanese government unveiled a plan that would wean the country off of nuclear power by the 2030s, seeming to echo similar efforts in Germany.  There was a great deal of sentiment after the Fukishima nuclear meltdown to do away with nuclear energy but the reality is that nuclear currently accounts for one third of Japan's energy.  Doing away with nuclear would also increase the country's dependence on imports of fossil fuels.  Japanese business industry put a great deal of pressure on the government to temper their original nuclear free policy stating that this would lead to higher electricity fees, unstable power supply and hindering economic activity.  


Cybersecurity Panel Discussion Addresses Cybersecurity Mitigation

Yesterday’s panel on Cybersecurity and the Electric Grid yesterday was excellent.  Miles Keogh, Director of Grants and Research at National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners  was joined by Jacob Olcott, Manager of Cybersecurity at Good Harbor to address the issues involved with challenges that utilities, business, regulators, and policy makers face in mitigating today’s Cybersecurity issues.  From both a state perspective (Miles) and a federal perspective (Jake) they addressed the what the real cybersecurity issues before our nation. Exactly who and what do do we need to protect?  What are the actual threats - what was Aurora and Syrntex?  What are the severe risks facing the United States?  Finally what are the challenges of instituting cyber security  within our grid system.  And, how do we insittute that considering the vulnerabilities within our current system.  

Our two panelists are well known and highly regarded experts in this area.  Miles Keogh is the author of a recent white paper, 'Cybersecurity for State Regulators', which is a primer for state regulatory agencies to address the potential of cybersecurity threats, statewide as well as nationally.  The Washington Post had a very good story which quotes Jacot Olcott on the Administration considering what standards to set with regard to Cybersecurity threats.  

Cybersecurity is on the legislative docket in Congress.  For an interesting read on this, please read the July piece in the n he New York Times on cybersecurity risks and potential for passing legislation.

Vote on "No More Solyndras Bill" today, Energy Expert Daniel Yergin on role of U.S. and Shale Gas

The House of Representatives will vote today on the Republicans' "No More Solyndras"  bill to to curtail the Energy Department's green energy loan guarantee program.  Unless you are blind, deaf and dumb, you know that the “No More Solyndras” bill  is named after the failed company, Solyndra, which received federal grant money to manufacture solar panels.  The bill will pass, however there are a number of Republicans who oppose the bill because it doesn’t go far enough.  Some conservatives have pushed to kill the loan program outright.  Needless to say, this bill will go nowhere in the Senate.  

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, "Making Sense of the U.S. Oil Boom", Daniel Yergin, gave his thoughts on the re-emergence of energy issues.  He pointed out how the new technology to extract natural gas makes the U.S. more competitive and is changing the political discourse about energy in the U.S. and will play a big role in 2012.  As to U.S. China relations,  Yergin states "there's much more self-confidence in their ability to buy what they need, a bigger appreciation of a flexible global market...In some ways, China will become a partner—it will come to have a role in the security of the flow of energy. This can go on a very constructive, cooperative fashion, or it can go on in a fashion which creates greater risk. This is going to be one of the major focuses of the U.S.-China relationship."  Yergin pointed out that the U.S. will continue to have a dominant role in energy production due to the new ability to use in oil field technologies that were developed for shale gas.   

Wind Production Tax Credit Should Be Extended

During the next seven days, the Members of the Senate have a critical opportunity to support American ingenuity and boost our economy by voting for an extension of the wind energy Production Tax Credit.  The Senate Finance Committee passed this amendment on August 2 by a bipartisan margin of 19-5 and now the full Senate has the opportunity to do the same.

 This should be a no brainer.  Yes, taxes are a prickly issue for the 2012 Congress, but passing the extension of PTC is essential to the overwhelming success this tax credit has brought to the American wind industry.  Anyone familiar with energy policy of the last century understands how the oil and gas industry has succeeded in part due to similar tax boosts for their business. 

 According to Navigant Consulting, as many as 37,000 jobs are directly tied to the wind industry and, by all economic forecasts; this figure will continue to grow - important at a time when U.S. unemployment is presently at 8.1%.  Additionally, the PTC drives up to $20 billion a year of private investment into U.S. wind farms, creating demand that allows U.S. manufacturing to compete in a global market.

 An extension of the PTC enjoys widespread, bipartisan support from groups as diverse as the National Governors Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, Edison Electric Institute, the American Farm Bureau Federation, environmentalists, labor unions, and others. Members of the House and Senate from both parties have indicated their agreement that the PTC should be renewed.

 As a further demonstration of bipartisanship, yesterday three senators from each party who are not members of the committee submitted a letter  to committee leaders in favor of wind energy. Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Boozman (R-AR), Scott Brown (R-MA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Mark Udall (D-CO) urged the committee to extend the PTC in the markup.

Designated "Wind Week" to promote the extension of Production Tax Credit for Wind Manufacturers

You may have missed it, but several groups and organizations have designated this week "Wind Week"   Taking advantage of the eight day window before the Senate adjourns before the November elections, several groups are pushing reports and stepping up messaging this week to get the Senate to vote on a cincentive before the current work session ends.  The Production Tax Credit, (PTC) is 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour credit for wind power production is set to expire December 31, and wind friendly groups fear that waiting until the lame duck session is taking too big of a risk.   The Senate Finance Committee passed a $205 billion tax extenders packagebefore the August recess that included the wind incentive.  The Obama Administration is squarely behind the PTC, while the Republicans and Presidential hopeful Mitt Romeny are opposed to the extension.  

In fact, conservative groups such as Americans for Prosperity, partially funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, and 60 other right-leaning groups opposed the incentive in a letter sent to Congress last week. The wind industry can play hardball as well.  Just last week, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) dropped Chicago-based Exelon from membership because of the utility’s resistance to extending the wind production tax credit.   But Exelon David Brown said "we’ve long had a position against subsidies, the wind PTC has run its course, it successfully launched the industry.” 

Cybersecurity and Hydraulic Fracturing Highlight Clean Energy Solution Series Fall Program

This fall Our Clean Energy Solution Series will spotlight two timely energy topics before our nation’s agenda: Cybersecurity and Hydraulic Fracturing.  

On Tuesday, September 18, at 12:noon, we will host a panel discussion, "Cybersecurity and the Electric Grid" featuring Miles Keogh, Grants and Research Director for the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners will moderate this panel on the need to develop a Cybersecurity expertise that both protects our national security and provides reliable electric service. Miles, well respected for his thorough understanding of the regulatory implications of next generation energy technology, recently authored the highly acclaimed paper, 'Cybersecurity for State Regulators'.  

On Wednesday, October 31st, at 12noon, we will host a panel discussion, "Hydraulic Fracturing:  Challenges and Opportunities".  Please join us for an illuminating conversation on how new hydraulic fracturing technologies have the potential to significantly impact our national energy security. Kyle Simpson, internationally respected on oil and gas issues, will moderate the panel which will also include Dr. Mark Zoback, Earth Sciences Professor at Stanford University, who is well known for his promising research on seismic imaging. 

Former President Bill Clinton Praises Obama's Energy Policy, Japan Considers Going Zero Nuclear

No one should be surprised that former president Bill Clinton backed up President Obama's energy policies in his speech last night. In a Ringing endorsement last night, Clinton had  soaring praise for Obama's agreement with the auto industry to increase vehicle fuel efficiency standards to an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 - which Clinton said will help Americans' wallets as well as the Earth's climate.

Bloomberg Business Week has a story about Japan turning zero nuclear.  With The Japanese public disinclined toward the use of nuclear energy, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda facing declining approval rating, the Prime Minister recently ordered his cabinet ministers to consider how to cope with challenges the country would face without nuclear energy.  The effects of this would be absolutely huge.  It is estimated that it would cost the country the equivalent of $622 billion to build a power grid around renewable energy.  Zero nuclear would be an enormous boost to renewable energy which would have to ramp up to providing the country 35% of electricity supply by 2030.  Not surprisingly, major business interests, especially the business lobby Keidanren, say this non nuclear plan is unrealistic and a threat to the manufacturing economy of Japan.  No doubt the nuclear meltdoen of Fukishima put nuclear energy in a new perspective, but whether zero nuclear becomes a reality is 50/50 in my book.

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