Partisan Issue

The Obama administration has made only ineffective efforts to address climate change such as shilling for “clean coal”, opening up the artic for drilling, and non-binding, unenforced climate agreements. An unfortunate truth is that the political process is bound by billionaires who will make purchases for the betterment of themselves rather than for the good of the masses. The Koch brothers are an example of this.  They spent millions of dollars to stop the climate change action.

We can examine the cost of energy in two ways: the dollar amount on our utility bills or gas pump or the “social cost.”  The social cost includes all the consequences that energy sources (coal, nuclear power…) exert on the public as a byproduct.  Economists have been trying to quantify these social costs for a while, looking at the premature deaths due to air pollution and damage brought on by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast.  Yet for some reason, it is rare that someone has tallied up these social costs in an organized fashion.  But Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney from the Hamilton Project wrote up a paper on this exact topic.  Greenstone and Looney are two economists who go through all the papers and attempt to calculate the price of various energy sources including external social costs.

Coal is an interesting energy source to examine.  Only looking at market price, electricity from coal is America’s cheapest energy source hence why coal is still a provider of 45% of the country’s electricity.  However, the reason for the reasonable price is that soot from coal-fired power plants still causes thousands of premature deaths every year as well as hundreds of thousands of illnesses.  Those costs are seen in shorter lives and higher health care bills.  If coal users paid for these costs themselves, the price of burning coal would increase from 3.2 cents per kilowatt hour to 8.8 cents per kilowatt hour, estimate Greenstone and Looney.  This is not even including social costs from the actual mining and drilling.  So far, this is the most comprehensive analysis we have, although it still is not complete.

Some of Greenstone and Looney’s choices could be debated.  They estimated the “social cost of carbon” to be $21 per ton in 2010 and found this number from a study done by an interagency U.S. government task force.  However, other economists argue that this number downplays the damage that could be inflicted by global warming.  Other studies have come up with an average of $43 per ton, which would then double the cost of coal.

These hidden social and external costs of energy types are huge factors in the debate over climate change.  Politicians dread the day when these costs become apparent to the public.  It will tarnish their view of cheap energy as they realize cheap energy is not actually cheap.  This could be one reason why the Obama administration has made minimal efforts to mitigate the climate change situation.

The Obama climate change agreement with China is not much of an agreement.  Elliot Diringer, the executive vice president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions says, “I wouldn’t even call it a deal.  It’s a joint announcement.”  Bill McKibben says the agreement is not binding in any way but rather Obama is essentially writing an IOU for future presidents.

Climate change has turned into a partisan issue.

from The Solar Biz The Solar Biz on Climate Change:

Solar is Creating Jobs Nearly 20 Times Faster than Overall U.S. Economy

A nonprofit called Solar Foundation recently compiled its fifth annual report titled, “National Solar Jobs Census 2014.” In the report they identify possible sources for jobs with the goal to increase the job market. They realize the Keystone XL pipeline would actually not create jobs. And while there has been uncertainty on renewable energy throughout the country, the number of jobs in renewable energy has grown. Jobs were created in the renewable energy industry at almost 20 times the rate of the overall economy.

Last year jobs in the solar industry increased by 21.8%. 31,000 new jobs were introduced in the year 2014. We have seen an 86% increase in solar-related jobs since 2010. The current total was found to be 173,800 jobs and 157,500 of those report that they spend all of their work time on solar-related activities.

The president of The Solar Foundation commented that nearly 1.3% of all jobs created in the last year were created by the solar industry. Andrea Luecke, the president, continues, “for the fifth consecutive year, the solar industry is attracting highly skilled, well-paid professionals. That growth is putting people back to work and strengthening our nation’s economy.”

The Solar Foundation sent out an employer survey to over 7,600 U.S. businesses. They concluded that the following year is likely to show a similar job increase of around 21% totaling to 210,060 workers in the solar industry.

Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley remarks on the increase in demand for clean, renewable power, “Solar exists at the critical intersection between energy, the economy and the environment.” Solar is currently the fastest growing energy source, adding thousands of jobs each year.

The survey conducted by The Solar Foundation also found that the workers in domestic solar installation are increasingly diverse. These jobs have surpassed the coal industry, which is now shrinking, currently at 93,185 jobs. Oil and gas pipeline construction have added about 20,000 jobs in 2014 but solar installation jobs have still created 50% more. Solar installation jobs won’t disappear in two years like the Keystone XL construction jobs. Also, they are neither supplemented with negative health impacts nor harmful to the environment.

“The tremendous growth in the solar industry last year is further evidence that we can clean our air and cut climate pollution while also growing the economy,” said Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor.

For more information, read here.

from The Solar Biz The Solar Biz’ Latest Post:

Can the US political system handle climate change?

It has been said by experts in the climate change field that the more time that passes, the more difficult it will be to make the necessary changes to help our planet.  Are we late in our response to climate change?

Bill McKibben, American environmentalist, discusses the relationship between climate change and the US political system.

This is a debate between humans and physics.  Unfortunately physics is not interested in following the same timetables as humans.  Whether or not gas prices rise, or the coal industry undergoes changes, or pricing carbon will slow the pace of development in China, or agribusiness is less profitable, physics will continue on it’s way.

Physics’ job is to take the carbon dioxide we produce and translate it to heat.  That means melting ice, rising oceans, and gathering storms.  Again, the more time that passes, the harder it will be to handle these changes in our environment.

For example, if we postponed healthcare reform for a decade, the outcome would be terrible.  There would be more suffering in those 10 years. However, when we returned to the problem, it would be about he same size. With climate change, if we don’t act now, the problems will be greater and more difficult to fix.  If you do not understand the distinction between these problems, you do not understand climate change.   It seems those in the government don’t necessarily fully understand climate change.

The response to climate change from those in the government has been slow for a few reasons.  There is resistance in the system to implement necessary changes.  The resistance has been expressed in a number of ways such as President Obama using spies at the NSA to kill global agreements on climate change, the bipartisan popularity of climate change denial in Congress, and the public relations industry and the media.  Even though there has been essentially indisputable scientific evidence, some still are in denial, or disbelief.

The resistance exists in many groups, based on their perceived interests. There are extremely powerful corporations who want to maintain their wealth from fossil fuels and other related industries.  There are individuals who rely on their jobs for security and unfortunately their jobs exist because of the fossil fuel industries. There are people who are simply afraid of economic chaos.  What if that leads to loss of the comforts they are used to?  There are some politicians whose fortunes depend on the money from the fossil fuel industry.  Unfortunately these same politicians are the ones crucial to instigate the changes needed to address climate change.

Politicians are falling short of addressing their problems.

from The Solar Biz The Solar Biz on Climate Change:

What the World Could be

A recent poll showed that of the top 18 issues that Americans care most about, 10 would be fixed with Public Banks and monetary reform.  Unfortunately climate change and ocean acidification were not even on the list.

Good news is that after talking with dozens of people across the country who work towards Public Banks and monetary system reform, all of them want to use the abundant funds that would be released to the public to build environmentally safe infrastructure.   We could reduce traffic jams, there could be comfortable electric rail systems, solar farms could create abundant clean energy.  Anything is possible.

from Solar Biz The Solar Biz has a new blog post!

Improving Solar Panel Output with Optimizers

Solar panels currently cannot communicate, cannot adjust to environmental circumstances, and do not have automatic shutdown capabilities. However, solar panels continue to get more efficient.  Most of the newer solar panels are equipped with optimizers, either built in or separately attached.  Microinverters provide the same basic benefits at similar costs; however, optimizers operate on the DC side are always connected to a central or string inverter.

Optimizers, also referred to as power electronics, provide three basic functions:

  1. They optimize the output of each panel by adjusting the current and voltage generated by each panel. If there is a panel operating at a low current, the optimizer can lower the voltage, which will increase the current and prevent the panel from affecting the current of other panels.
  2. Optimizers are made so that the installer or system owner can see the performance of each individual panel.
  3. Some of the newer optimizers provide code-required automatic DC shutdown capabilities to prevent arcing and fires.

Optimizers may have gotten a slow start, as with many new solar technologies.  New solar technologies tend to have higher initial costs and unproven benefits.  Yet as production increases, prices decrease, operating capabilities improve, and more installers use optimizers for residential and commercial projects.  A big step was when the panel manufacturers began to integrate optimizers into the junction boxes.  This led to reduction of cost of parts and installer labor.

The Energy Show is a 20-minute podcast that airs weekly.  The podcast provides tips and gives advice to homeowners wanting to reduce home and business energy consumption.  Each week addresses a topic that can help cut your energy bill, explain new products and technologies, and get to the point in order to help you make smarter energy choices.  Barry Cinnamon, a long-time proponent of renewable energy and a widely recognized solar power expert is the host of The Energy Show.  Barry Cinnamon founded Akeena Solar in 2001.  This week the guest on The Energy Show is Zvi Alon, Chairman and CEO of Tigo Energy, one of the pioneers in the optimizer business.

from The Solar Biz The Solar Biz’ Latest Blog Post: