I was on the Joe America radio show this past Saturday. Check it out! We had an interesting discussion covering fracking, energy, and environmentalism. I had a great time!
The link to the June 1 recording is on the bottom of the radio show’s webpage:
Or you can find a direct link to the recording here:
Fracking has been an incredible boon for everyone in the United States. For the first time in decades, heavy manufacturing companies, such as Nucor Steel, are coming back to the United States to take advantage of low energy costs. The rest of the world stands to benefit from fracking, too. Fracking has the potential to free eastern Europe from its dependence on Russia’s gas supply, and the political bullying that comes with it. Japan and China can lower their natural gas costs, which are currently four times what we pay in the United States. In Africa, where poverty and disease go hand in hand, cheap energy can help to fuel and build the water purification and modern sanitation systems we enjoy in the developed world.
What makes people like Josh Fox–the director of “Gasland”–so scary, is that they have found a way to fight this amazing, life-promoting technology while evading honest discussion. They have developed and mastered the art of making terrifying “documentaries” using film techniques straight out of Hollywood horror films. Let me explain.
Last night I saw the sixth-ever showing of Fox’s newest film, “Gasland Part II.” The sequel did not disappoint. Just like the first film, the sequel showed Fox’s mastery of the techniques used by modern low-budget horror films. Borrowing a technique from the famous zombie apocalypse thriller “28 Days Later,” “Gasland Part II” begins with a rapid succession of choppy, blurred TV clips, over a crescendo of deep base tones resembling an ever-accelerating heartbeat. Then, the moment the audio and visuals hits their climax and the audience could not possibly take anymore, there is a sudden, abrupt and eerie silence. This leaves the audience in temporary state of extreme psychological discomfort, like the feeling of someone groping around in a pitch-black unfamiliar room. Now they are ready for Josh Fox to show them the light.
These techniques are not limited to the beginning of the film; Fox uses them throughout. Later, while showing flames coming off the top of a water well, a deep rumbling base sound swept through the room like what you would hear while watching a space shuttle launch in an IMAX theater. It was a loud, deep rumble, making it feel like the whole room was shaking. Of course, the real sound of the flame had been dubbed over using film editing software, which just shows another way in which Fox effectively uses his “artistic license” to shade the truth.
Another technique that caught my attention was the way Fox juxtaposed images of children with images of heavy machinery, making it seem as though we have to make an either-or choice between children and industry. This was straight out of the Hollywood blockbuster “Terminator II,” where images of children’s playgrounds and the sound of children laughing are contrasted with those of an industrial wasteland future dominated by killer robots. Truthfully, Fox does not go to this extreme–that would be too obvious–but the sheer amount of footage showing children walking up to well sites and posing before bulldozers would be inexplicable if it were not meant to give a similar impression: “Machines or children? Which side are you on?” (There was even a unexplained clip showing a three-legged dog. How can you not feel sympathetic toward a three-legged dog? But how many audience members will stop to wonder what that has to do with fracking?)
What astounded me most was not the techniques themselves but seeing their effect on the audience. At one point the audience was so worked into a fervor that there was a sudden outburst of boos and yelling triggered by a clip of Obama announcing an “all of the above” energy strategy. For the first time in my life, I actually heard someone (sitting somewhere to my left) let out an angry hiss. When I first read George Orwell’s book, “1984,” I remember thinking, in response to a scene where fictional characters hiss out at images of a character Emmanuel Goldstein, “the Enemy of the People,” that it sounded absurd. “Hissing?,” I thought, “Who hisses? That’s weird.” But apparently some people do, and I’ve just been watching the wrong films with the wrong crowds.
Honestly, I don’t know what to do about these kinds of films or how to protect audience members from the kinds of psychological manipulation they employ. In this case, I stood up during the Q&A and urged people to watch “FrackNation,” a more honest pro-fracking documentary, but I’m not sure that alone was enough. Maybe I’ll have an actual horror film director take a look at Fox’s methods to verify and make clear that this is what he is doing. If anyone has some better ideas, please feel free to share.
It seems that no bad deed goes unrewarded by the University of Colorado-Denver. This week, the UCD School of Public Affairs announced that former EPA Region 8 Administrator James Martin will be one of the winners of its 14th Annual Wirth Chair Sustainability Awards. It’s a curious choice, in light of the fact that Mr. Martin resigned from his EPA position last February amidst scandal.
It’s a story we covered on this blog. Mr. Martin used to work in the administration of former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter. He was the key player in the implementation of the New Energy Economy. From a Colorado Open Records Act Request, we learned that Mr. Martin conducted almost all his official state business from private email accounts. In 2010, Mr. Martin was tapped by the Obama administration to head EPA Region 8, which has jurisdiction over Colorado. Two years later, we performed a Freedom of Information Act request to discern the extent to which he still conducted public business on private accounts. After being stonewalled by EPA, we sued. In the course of that litigation, Mr. Martin misled the EPA, the Department of Justice, and a federal judge about his use of private emails. Specifically, he told the court that, “I have not used this or any other private email account to conduct EPA business.” It turns out this wasn’t even remotely true. Then he resigned.
Unfortunately for Mr. Martin, his resignation didn’t end his troubles. Both the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee and the House Oversight & Government Reform are engaged in an ongoing investigation into why Martin believed that it was ok to use private emails to conduct public business, and then hide these emails from Freedom of Information Act requests.
Here’s where it gets interesting, because now a chastised Mr. Martin seems intent on throwing his former EPA managers under the bus. Under recent questioning from the Congressional Committees, Mr. Martin passed the blame to his superiors, saying that he “wasn’t aware until very recently of the [EPA's] strong preference [to only use work e-mail].” Moreover, he said he did not know “until very recently” that e-mails in his non-official account could have been considered federal records and was never instructed that these e-mails should be forwarded to his work account in order to preserve them as records.
Mr. Martin’s account is not terribly believable. After all, he produced his non-official emails in response to a Colorado Open Records Act request; Why, then, would he think that these records are shielded from a Freedom of Information Act request. Also, he’s a lawyer. He should know better. It’s also a self-serving account. He’s basically saying that, ‘It’s not my fault, because I didn’t know (all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding).’
However implausible it is that Mr. Martin thought that using a private account shielded him from transparency laws, his testimony before the Congressional investigators could prove very damning to the EPA. I don’t doubt for a second that Mr. Martin knew what he was doing was wrong, but that doesn’t change the fact that EPA higher-ups never instructed him that emails in his non-official account are subject to information requests. FOIA training is supposed to be mandatory. Its absence in the case of Mr. Martin is a further troubling sign of this EPA’s aversion to transparency.
In any case, I’m sure that Mr. Martin will be the first-ever recipient of an Annual Wirth Chair Sustainability Award who is also part of an ongoing Congressional investigation of EPA.
Filed under: Legislation, New Energy Economy, renewable energy
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers hydropower to be a renewable energy source.
The Colorado Energy Office (CEO) calculates that carbon emissions from hydroelectric power are on par with wind and solar energy.
Last Thursday, Daniel Weiss of the Center for American Progress (CAP), a leftist non-profit organization, testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee that hydroelectric power is renewable.
For more information on Weiss, see below.
Responding to question from Congressman Cory Gardner who asked Mr. Weiss if he considered hydropower to be “renewable,” Weiss stated, “yes it is.”
Video of that testimony is here. Congressman Gardner’s question to Weiss begins at the 1:53:27 mark.
Gardner went on to explain that Colorado’s rural electric cooperatives get a significant percentage of their power from Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), a federal hydropower project, yet that is not considered “renewable” under SB 252, the state bill to increase the renewable mandate on Colorado’s co-ops 100 percent by 2020.
Supporters of SB 252 claim to be concerned about carbon emissions, yet none advocate for hydro. Both the EPA and CAP consider hydro a renewable source, but supporters exclude most hydro from the bill.
This begs the questions: if hydro is renewable and clean and co-ops already use hydro, then why would the Colorado state legislature force them to comply with a mandate that excludes their clean source and requires a massive $2 billion to $4 billion build out?
Perhaps a better title for SB252 would have the “preferred” energy standard for rural electric cooperatives.
More about Weiss from his curriculum vitae:
Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at American Progress, where he leads the Center’s clean energy and climate advocacy campaign. Before coming to American Progress, he spent 25 years working with environmental advocacy organizations and political campaigns. Weiss is an expert in energy and environmental policy; legislative strategy and tactics; and advocacy communications.
Filed under: Legislation, New Energy Economy, renewable energy
A newly released survey provides some powerful ammunition for North Carolina lawmakers who want to freeze the state’s renewable energy mandate at its current level rather than continue its increase to meet the 12.5 percent mandate by 2021.
The Raleigh, North Carolina, based Civitas Institute conducted the state-wide poll and found that while residents like renewable energy in theory they don’t like it in practice, in law, or in cost:
North Carolinians oppose the state law requiring utility companies to purchase a percentage of their energy from so-called renewable energy sources by more than 3-to-1…. Additionally, ratepayers strongly oppose the use of such energy sources as wind or solar if it means paying higher utility bills.
Break downs for responses to two specific questions listed below:
Do you support or oppose the increased usage of renewable sources to generate electricity?
70% Total Support
15% Total Oppose
42% Strongly Support
28% Somewhat Support
6% Somewhat Oppose
9% Strongly Oppose
15% Undecided/Don’t Know
Do you support or oppose the existing state law that requires you to purchase a certain amount of renewable energy each month, even if it costs you more?
21% Total Support
67% Total Oppose
10% Strongly Support
11% Somewhat Support
18% Somewhat Oppose
49% Strongly Oppose
12% Undecided/Don’t Know
Another interesting result is the response to who should pay for the additional cost for electricity produced from sources such as wind and solar. Fifty-eight percent said shareholders of investor owned utilities should shoulder the financial burden. My guess is if shareholders rather than ratepayers had to pay for the cost of wind and solar, the enthusiasm for “green” would diminish substantially.
Earlier in the year, “legislation to freeze the state’s renewable energy mandate stalled in a House Committee, but a similar bill is currently moving through the Senate. “ This poll reveals the bill would be extremely well received by ratepayers.
Conventional wisdom would believe that Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) such as Xcel Energy would have lower electric rates than Rural Electric Associations (REAs) and Municipally Owned Utilities (MOUs) because IOUs have the advantage of population density that allows for maximization of capital investment.
Average residential bill/cost of 700 KWh
Average small commercial bill/cost of 2,000 KWh + 10KW
Average large commercial bill/cost of 45,000 KWh + 130KW
Average industrial bill/cost of 1,900,000 KWh + 3,000KW
These figures beg a couple of questions to which I don’t have definitive answers but do have very strong suspicions:
- Would the IOUs’ bills have compared more favorably before the 30 percent renewable mandate and before the Public Utilities Commission moved away from a least cost principle?
- Is Colorado’s largest IOU Xcel Energy worried that REAs and MOUs provide electricity at lower costs? If not, it should be. As electric rates continue to rise, businesses looking to reduce their costs may move out of Xcel service areas and into an area served by an REA or MOU. It already produces surplus electricity as it is.
According to Xcel Energy’s regulatory filings, the utility spent $275 million in ratepayer subsidies for customer-sited solar panel systems from 2008-2012.*
That breaks down to:
Cost of these solar subsidies for each of Xcel Energy’s 1.4 million Colorado customers.
Percentage of Xcel Energy customers (approximately 9,200) that benefit from lower electricity rates by having subsidized solar panels installed on their property. Although only a fraction of 1 percent of Xcel Energy customers benefit from solar subsidies, 100% of customers pay for the cost of these subsidies.
Cost in Xcel Energy ratepayer subsidies for each of the 3,600 employees that work “throughout the value chain” of Colorado’s solar industry (job numbers are from the Solar Energy Industries Association).
Capital cost per kilowatt capacity of the solar panels subsidized by Xcel Energy ratepayers.** This compares to $2,040/kilowatt for the 750 megawatt Comanche 3 coal-fired power plant in Pueblo,*** and $1,400/kilowatt for a combined cycle natural gas plant.
*See page 1, final column of Xcel Energy, December 2012 RESA budget Report, filed 2 February 2013.
**Capacity of Xcel Energy’s distributed generation solar panel assets—44.9 megawatts—was taken from Section 2.11 of the Technical Appendix to Xcel Energy’s 2011 Electric Resource Plannb (page 341).
***The Comanche 3 cost data is derived from following assumptions: Capital cost–$1.3 billion; and capacity 637 megawatts (85% capacity factor of 750 megawatt nameplate capacity).
Predictions from the first Earth Day in 1969, “Environmentalists’ Wild Predictions,” by Walter Williams:
At the first Earth Day celebration, in 1969, environmentalist Nigel Calder warned, “The threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind.” C.C. Wallen of the World Meteorological Organization said, “The cooling since 1940 has been large enough and consistent enough that it will not soon be reversed.” In 1968, Professor Paul Ehrlich, Vice President Gore’s hero and mentor, predicted there would be a major food shortage in the U.S. and “in the 1970s … hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.” Ehrlich forecasted that 65 million Americans would die of starvation between 1980 and 1989, and by 1999 the U.S. population would have declined to 22.6 million. Ehrlich’s predictions about England were gloomier: “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”
It’s time for a separation of earth and state. The eco-left “Earth Day religion: Now there’s even a hymn to accompany the theology,” by Robert Knight in the Washington Times:
Earth Day is emblematic of the Earth religion, which has a decidedly strong sense of superiority of its vision. If you don’t believe it, here’s the first stanza of the “Earth Day Anthem,” set to the tune of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”:
Joyful, joyful we adore our Earth in all its wonderment
Simple gifts of nature that all join into a paradise
Now we must resolve to protect her
Show her our love throughout all time.
For contrast from the world of old-time religion, here’s the first stanza of “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” written by Henry van Dyke in 1907 and found in most hymnals:
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!
There’s a clear line between worshipping the Creator and mistakenly worshipping the creation, and it’s not a new error.
Meet a self-described “co-founder” of Earth Day, murder Ira Einhorn, a.k.a. the Unicorn. Reason’s Nick Gillespie offers a glimpse into:
a dark corner of the 1960s’ and ’70s’ countercultural carnival, one involving Philadelphia’s highest-profile hippie guru: Ira Einhorn, also known as “the Unicorn,” a preacher of love and flower power who was convicted of killing his girlfriend in 1977 and stuffing her remains in a trunk that he kept in his apartment.
While Gillespie acknowledges that some claim “The Unicorn” had no formal connection with Earth Day, still he articulates the lunacy of radical eco-chic.
However spurious his Earth Day connection, his case is a must-read for anyone interested in the excesses of and bizarreness of the broadly construed hippie movement and the sorts of radical-chic enablers who help obvious sociopaths and psychopaths avoid the law.
Because the U.S. doesn’t mine much of these elements here, U.S. manufacturers look elsewhere. Sadly, individual tragedy in China’s “cancer villages” reveals the dirty secret of ‘clean energy.’
‘Yun Yaoshun’s two granddaughters died at the ages of 12 and 18, succumbing to kidney and stomach cancer even though these types of cancers rarely affect children. The World Health Organization has suggested that the high rate of such digestive cancers are due to the ingestion of polluted water.
The river where the children played stretches from the bottom of the Daboshan mine…Its waters are contaminated by cadmium, lead, indium and zinc and other metals.’
Filed under: Archive, Legislation, New Energy Economy, renewable energy
The impact of SB 252, a bill to raise the renewable mandate on rural electric cooperatives, will be devastating to rural Colorado according to Dr. Roger Bezdek, Founder and President of Management Information Services, Inc. Bezdek released a report titled “The Economic and Jobs Impact of the Proposed Colorado RES” that predicts that, if passed, SB 252 will raise significantly the state’s unemployment rate and electric rates, which directly contradicts what bill sponsors Senate President John Morse and Senator Gail Schwartz have been arguing.
According to Bezdek’s report:
- At present, Colorado’s unemployment rate is below the U.S. average.
- With the RES, the state’s unemployment rate would increase to about 15% above the U.S. average.
- However, job losses resulting from the RES, would be largely concentrated in the predominately rural areas served by the electric coops – many of which are already suffering economically.
- The unemployment rate in these areas would increase substantially and would be more than 1/3 higher than the state average and more than 50% higher than the national unemployment rate.
- At present, Colorado’s average electric rate is below the U.S. average.
- With the RES, the state’s overall average would increase to above the U.S. average.
- However, with the RES, the average rate to the predominately rural customers served by the electric coops would increase significantly and would be about 14% higher than the national average.
Bezdek draws on 30 years of experience in “research and management in the energy, utility, environmental, and regulatory areas, serving in private industry, academia and the federal government” and provides a grim forecast for those co-op members living on a fixed income. They will see their residential rates go up $20 per month.
Sure seems like a war on rural Colorado.
Filed under: Legislation, New Energy Economy, renewable energy
Despite close to seven hours of testimony on SB13-252, a bill to raise the renewable energy mandate 150 percent on rural electric co-ops, it is very clear that the bill’s prime sponsors Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) and Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass) do not understand their own bill and didn’t bother to consult those who can comprehend the complexity of this legislation. It passed out of committee on a party line vote.
The bill was heard yesterday in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. Members include:
- Senator Angela Giron, Chair, (D-Pueblo) and a bill sponsor
- Senator Matt Jones, Vice-Chair, (D-Louisville) and a bill sponsor
- Senator Ted Harvey, (R-Highlands Ranch)
- Senator Evie Hudak (D-Westminster)
- Senator Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa)
What the sponsors say it will do:
- Imposes a mandate on rural electric co-ops forcing them to get 25 percent of the electricity they supply to members from government-selected “renewable” sources, such as wind and solar by 2020.
- Removes the in-state preference for the 1.25 kilowatt-hour multiplier.
- Expands the “renewable” sources to include coal-mine methane and municipal waste.
- Increases the retail rate impact from 1 to 2 percent, which Sen. Giron calls “acceptable.”
What the bill really will do:
- Despite no projected fiscal impact to state government, it will cost co-op members anywhere from $2 billion to 4 billion, more than $8,000 per meter, including those in 10 of Colorado’s poorest counties.
- Removes the in-state multiplier because current law is unconstitutional. The state is being sued over it and doesn’t want to lose, which would force the state to pay attorney’s fees.
- Drive jobs out of the state because of high electricity costs.
- “Blow up the electric co-operative business model.”
- Likely force the state to spend taxpayer money defending this new law in court.
- Devastate rural economies.
- Drive up the cost of business for Colorado’s farmers and ranchers at the same time they are suffering through a devastating drought.
- Force co-ops to try to comply with a law that well could be a “physical impossibility.”
- So many people showed up to testify that the hearing had to moved to a larger room, and still an over-flow room was needed to accommodate the crowd
- Neither Senator Morse nor Schwartz could answer basic questions about the rate cap and indicated the committee would hear from “experts” who could answer questions.
- All three Moffat County Commissioners showed up to testify against the bill.
- Tri-State Generation, wholesale power supplier owned by co-ops, and every electric co-op that testified stated they were not consulted at all regarding the bill despite their repeated attempts to engage with sponsors once they heard legislation would be coming.
- Bi-partisan opposition
- Partisan support
- Senator Harvey was the best-prepared legislator.
Below are highlights and lowlights of SB252 testimony.
Forced to admit:
Senator Harvey asked Senator Morse if the electric cooperatives were ever consulted regarding SB 252. Morse couldn’t say, “yes,” so he answered with a long-winded “no.”
Former Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Chairman Ron Binz, who resigned under the cloud of an ethics complaint, acknowledged that Xcel Energy may well benefit by selling “renewable energy credits” (RECs) to Colorado’s rural co-ops in order for them to comply with this law.
Senator Ted Harvey asked several supporters of SB 252 if they would support the 150 percent mandate increase if they didn’t benefit directly from the bill. The answer: “No.”
Senator John Morse stated if the “market” wanted a renewable mandate we would have one. But since the market doesn’t, government must force it.
Supporter and former state representative Buffy McFadden, current Pueblo County Commissioner, said she wasn’t sure if renewable energy would “go to market” if government didn’t force it.
“Two percent rate cap” comes under fire:
Senator Harvey asked sponsors to explain the two percent rate cap. They couldn’t.
Under pressure from Senator Ted Harvey, PUC Executive Director Doug Dean struggled to explain the total cost of the Colorado’s renewable energy mandate and the two percent rate cap. Dean finally acknowledged that the two percent rate cap only applies to “incremental costs,” and followed up with “it’s pretty complicated.”
Binz perpetuates the 2 percent rate cap myth. Says in testimony, “as an officer of the state,” the PUC and Xcel do not mislead the public on the cost of renewable energy.
Four hours later, Independence Institute energy policy analyst William Yeatman directly addresses Binz’s misleading characterization of how Xcel recovers the total cost of the renewable energy mandate. Yeatman clarifies using real numbers: two percent of Xcel’s retail electric sales in 2012 was $53 million, which was captured in the Residential Electric Standard Adjustment (RESA). Another $291 million, not subject to the rate cap, was captured through the Electric Commodity Adjustment for a total of $343 million or 13 percent of retail sales.
Senator Harvey asked Yeatman to explain how the PUC allows this. Yeatman responded that the budgetary trick was likely the result of a dichotomy between PUC staff that acknowledges the public may be “laboring under the misapprehension of a two percent rate cap” and the Commissioners who allow it to occur.
Rich Wilson, CEO of Southeast Colorado Power Association, to bill sponsors: “you just blew apart the non-profit electric cooperative model.”
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers pleads with the committee “don’t pass this bill.”
Kent Singer, Executive Director of Colorado Rural Electric Association (CREA), to bill sponsors and supporters, “even after five hours of testimony, I don’t think you have a clear picture of how this [SB252] works.”
Singer continues, had sponsors come to us, we could have explained it, but they NEVER did.
Singer: two percent rate cap is far more complicated than Ron Binz would lead you to believe.
Dan Hodges, Executive Director of Colorado Association of Municipal Utilities, responding to inquires about why Senator Morse would exclude his own utility owned by the city of Colorado Springs: the state constitution excludes municipal utilities from state regulation because they are owned by their citizens. “it’s unconstitutional” to draw municipals into this…”I don’t think it is appropriate for rural electric cooperatives to be drawn in either” because they are owned by their members.
Binz belittles non-profits cooperatives and their members: “Tri-State [Generation] doesn’t have the state’s interest in mind.” Tri-State is owned by electric cooperatives, which, in turn, are owned by members. Most of those members are rural Coloradans.
Senator Gail Schwartz said her neighbors in Aspen and Snowmass want more options for and access to renewables such as solar panels. My question: Why don’t they just pay for it?
Dave Lock, Senior manager, government relations for Tri-State, addresses Binz, “you can be damn sure Tri-State cares about Colorado.”
Lock responding to Binz’s disbelief about Tri-State’s $2-4billion analysis. “We only had five days,” which included a weekend because we were never allowed at the table.
Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers, “I own a bar. I’d like to mandate that everyone drink 25 percent more.”
John Kinkaid of Moffat County “we aren’t contributing to your [Denver’s] brown cloud.”
War on Rural Colorado:
All three Moffat County Commissioners John Kinkaid, Tom Mathers, and Chuck Grobe echoed the theme that SB 252 is an assault on rural ratepayers and equivalent to “war on rural Colorado.”
Norma Lou Murr, a Walsenburg senior citizen on a fixed income, waited patiently for hours to testify. When her turn finally came, she asked the committee “to look very seriously” before raising her electric rates.
The way the state legislative Democrats are handling this legislation is similar to how they handled gun control – leave those most impacted out of the conversation and then completely ignore their concerns during testimony.