Hate fuels Boulder fracking debate

December 11, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 
Compare the look of a Boulder anti-fracking activist screaming at Encana employee Wendy Weidenbeck as she walks to her car to the 1957 photo of a woman screaming at Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, as she walks alone into high school.

Compare the look of a Boulder anti-fracking activist screaming at Encana's Wendy Wiedenbeck as she leaves a public hearing to the 1957 photo of a white woman screaming at Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, as she walks alone into the newly desegregated high school.

“The function of the Human Relations Commission is to foster mutual respect and understanding and to create an atmosphere conducive to the promotion of amicable relations among all members of the city’s community.” Boulder Human Relations Office

For a community with an “Office of Human Rights” and is home to a university with a multi-million dollar diversity department, Boulder was anything but an atmosphere of mutual respect and tolerance of diverse opinions during a December 4 public hearing on land use and hydraulic fracturing.

Newspaper (Denver Post, Daily Camera) accounts of what happened that night do not adequately convey how quickly events spiraled out of control, so much so that anti-fracking activists, including children, took over and forced Boulder County Commissioners Cindy Domenico, Deb Gardner, and Will Toor from the room.

With the commissioners gone, a group of well-coached child activists, who call themselves “Earth Guardians,” took charge and chanted an anti-fracking rap, which the adults repeated in a cult-like manner.  Then the “Earth Guardians,” seated in chairs reserved for the county commissioners, symbolically voted to ban hydraulic fracturing.

This behavior wasn’t limited to a few rude attendees. Dozens of adults participated and encouraged the children’s inappropriate behavior. Paul Falkenberg of 23rd Studios posted a video of the chaos, which provides a more accurate portrayal of how the situation deteriorated at the start of the hearing.

After order was restored some 30 minutes later, the meeting proceeded. Wendy Wiedenbeck, community relations advisor for Encana Oil and Gas, provided testimony on her company’s position about possible new fracking regulations.  A man (presumably Falkenberg) taped Weidenbeck’s six minute testimony and can be heard interrupting her, which included a suggestion that the community “tar and feather your [Wiedenbeck’s] ass.”

As troubling as those incidents are, they pale in comparison to the treatment that Wiedenbeck and another female colleague endured after they left the hearing. The same man who taped Wiedenbeck’s public comments, along with several others, harassed and threatened the women as they walked back to their vehicle calling them “killers,” screaming that they are “poisoning our children,” and shouting at them to leave Boulder and never return because they aren’t welcome; they aren’t wanted. Fear is obvious on the face of the young blonde woman who walked with Wiedenbeck, but it did not deter the mob.

The angry anti-fracking gang menacingly reminded the women “we know your name,” and followed up with “this [harassment and threats] is a shadow what is to come.” Watch the video (begin at the 6:27 mark) to get the full impact of the unadulterated hatred these people demonstrated toward Wiedenbeck who was simply doing her job.

An interesting side note, research into 23rd Studios and Paul Falkenberg reveals he recently moved to Boulder from New York. His area code is from Manhattan, which is ironic since part of his strategy is to question where she lives, where her children go to school and to demonize Wiedenbeck assuming she isn’t part of “the community.”

This video conjures up the image of the iconic photo of Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, who bravely endured a “thicket of racism” when she walked alone into Little Rock High School on September 4, 1957. A photographer captured the hatred on a young white woman’s face as she screamed behind the black teenager.

Like the conduct of those white students in 1957, the behavior captured on these videos is meant to intimidate reasonable people into silence.  Who would want to risk that kind of treatment just to support fracking?

Even the Boulder County Commissioners recognized it for what it was – eco-left thugs trying to intimidate and silence any dissent. The next day, December 5, the commissioners issued this statement:

The Boulder County Board of Commissioners deeply disapproves of the conduct of certain individuals who came to disrupt the public hearing on proposed Land Use Code regulations for oil and gas development in unincorporated Boulder County last night.

As a county, we have a long history of respecting the First Amendment rights of all, and as a Board we greatly respect and appreciate the opinions and information which was brought forth at the hearing and for the respect and conduct of the majority of attendees once the hearing was underway.

The troubling activities last night included the disruption at the beginning of the hearing by a group of individuals intent on overpowering anyone in the room with an opinion different than their own; the jeering of a spokesperson from the oil and gas industry during her testimony – and mob harassment, cursing at and intimidation of the same representative and her colleagues as they left the building and walked several blocks to their cars; a bullying atmosphere in and around the hearing room; and outbursts of cheering for threatening rhetoric aimed at quashing opposing opinions.

Suppressing alternative comments and shutting out voices through intimidation and fear is not part of the democratic process we hold dear. As your publicly elected officials, we strive to create a safe environment for people of all opinions to come forward and provide input and feedback in our public hearings.

As we mentioned repeatedly during the hearing last night, we call upon residents to be considerate of all by allowing everyone’s voice to be heard in a respectful manner.

Last night’s efforts by a small segment of attendees to threaten and intimidate a speaker walking to her car was nothing short of shameful. Public hearings should create a space for everyone to feel comfortable to participate. Furthermore, any speaker should be able to attend and leave a public hearing free of threatening harassment.

As much as it pains us to do so, we will be creating a security plan for future hearings to ensure that everyone is made to feel welcome for taking the time to let his or her voice be heard. In the interest of helping to create this safe environment, the plan will entail the removal of individuals who elect not to participate in civil discourse and the prosecution of individuals who threaten the safety of other individuals.

From the perspective of the Independence Institute, hydraulic fracturing is a mature process and a safe and reliable way of extracting oil and natural gas that otherwise may not be recoverable. It is an economic and environmental blessing for Colorado and the nation. For more information, please read “Frack Attack: Cracking the Case Against Hydraulic Fracturing.”

While we support fracking, we also acknowledge that no energy resource is 100 percent risk free. But to suggest that the fracking process kills babies is so utterly absurd, it should be dismissed immediately and those making the claims should be discredited.  That isn’t likely to happen because people and the industry are afraid of the well-funded, angry so-called environmental groups. Critical thinking is the victim. The eco-left’s irresponsible verbal venom is killing any kind of reasonable public debate.

Boulder isn’t the only place this has happened. Just a few months ago Longmont anti-fracking activists swarmed Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper, a former geologist and fracking supporter, screaming “dirty water, dirty air, we get sick and you don’t care” and plastering signs on the windshield of his vehicle as he tried to leave a community event. Watch the video here. Now, there is an online petition to recall him.

The eco-left doesn’t want to compromise on regulations. After accepting more than $25 million to kill coal by advocating conversion of coal fired power plants to natural gas, groups like the Sierra Club now want to rid the U.S. of natural gas. Of course this isn’t even remotely possible and would be an economic and environmental disaster.

The time has come for reasonable people to stand up to eco-hate and intolerance. For those with the courage to show their support for fracking and find pleasure in irritating the extreme eco-left, email amy@i2i.org. The Independence Institute will send you a free “Mothers In Love with Fracking” T-shirt. Just pay $5 for shipping and handling. Wear it if you dare!

It's fashionable to show support for domestic energy production with a "Mothers In Love with Fracking" T-shirt from the Independence Institute.

It's fashionable to show support for domestic energy production with a "Mothers In Love with Fracking" T-shirt from the Independence Institute.

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Colorado: Xcel’s cash cow

October 31, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

Last week Minnesota-based Xcel Energy announced that it beat market expectations with third quarter earnings increasing an impressive 18 percent. Colorado’s largest investor owned utility cited hot weather, rate hikes, and lower costs as reasons for its strong 3Q performance.

Colorado (PSCo) outperformed all other Xcel subsidiaries with a 24 percent increase for the third quarter 2012 versus 2011. For the nine months ending September 30, 2012, Colorado customers provided a 19 percent increase in earnings to Xcel shareholders while total company (sum of all subsidiaries) earnings per share are up only ten percent.

Xcel Energy services electric and gas customers in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.

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No such thing as a free lunch or free energy

October 30, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

The Independence Institute’s Todd Shepherd, along with this blog, have spent two years covering, and ultimately exposing, what is now the Abound Solar scandal. Understandably, much of the focus is now on Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck’s criminal investigation as well as a Congressional Oversight Committee inquiry into the bankrupt solar panel manufacturer.

Recently released emails on Complete Colorado indicate that, despite statements to the contrary, the White House politicized the Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee process for politically well-connected Abound.

But something else within those emails caught my attention reminding me of free market economist and Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman’s famous quote, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” In other words, even things that appear to be free have an associated cost.

This basic economic concept is lost on Colorado State Representative Max Tyler’s (D-Lakewood) who in a March 23, 2010, press release bragged about a government-dictated increase in Colorado’s renewable energy mandate:

With HB 1001 we will manufacture and install panels and turbines all over Colorado to capture free energy….The sun will always shine for free, the winds will always blow for free, and our energy production will be cleaner.  Renewable energy, green jobs, and a cleaner future — what’s not to like?

At roughly the same time that Tyler publicly fantasized about “free energy,” a credit advisor for the Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee program James McCrea was concerned about “major issues” with Abound Solar’s marketability. In an email dated April 1, 2010, just seven days after Tyler’s press release, McCrea explained:

Another issue is the very limited supply of telluride, its potential price trajectory and other demands for it. Related to this is a question of the viability of the Abound panels as compared to other panels and whether there is sufficient benefit to allow the panels to be profitable if Te [telluride] prices really increase. If the price really rises will there be alternative uses that can afford it basically turning it into a non available input for Abound?

I don’t believe we have ever worked with an input material that is so limited. We need to think that through carefully.

Before going bankrupt this summer, Abound produced cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-filmed photovoltaic solar panels. Cadmium and tellurium, used in the manufacturing of Abound’s panels, are two of the world’s 17 “rare earth elements” that are needed for everything from smart phones to solar panels to high tech weapons systems. My former colleague Michael Sandoval, now an investigative reporter with the Heritage Foundation, and I have written several columns on general issues with rare earth elements.

This email highlights the problem specific to Abound, and McCrea was right to be concerned. According to the December 2011 DOE Critical Materials Strategy the price of tellurium has been going up since 2007:

The price dropped in 2006, but in 2007 resumed its upward trend owing to increased production of cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells.

Furthermore, China controls the vast majority of rare earth elements. In August 2012, the Chinese announced an ambitious plan to increase its stranglehold on the world’s available supply of rare earths. According to China Daily the country:

launched a physical trading platform for rare earth metals as part of its efforts to regulate the sector and strengthen its pricing power for the resources.

As the world’s largest producer of rare earth metals, China now supplies more than 90 percent of the global demand for rare earth metals, although its reserves account for just 23 percent of the world’s total.

The article reiterated what Michael and I have said on numerous occasions, mining rare earths comes with a significant environmental cost that green zealots like Tyler completely ignore when claiming solar energy is free and clean:

Mining the metals greatly damages the environment. In recent years, China has come down heavily on illegal mining and smuggling, cut export quotas and imposed production caps, stricter emissions standards and higher resource taxes to control environmental damage and stave off resource depletion.

However, these measures have irked rare earth importers, who complained about rising prices and strained supplies.

But China did exactly what it said it would do in 2009. It drove up prices with reduced output as global demand increased.

China’s rare earth output fell 36 percent year on year to 40,000 tonnes in the first half of the year. Prices of major rare earth products in July remained twice as high as prices at the beginning of 2011, although down from the beginning of the year.

In July 2009, about a year before President Barack Obama announced a $400 million loan guarantee for Abound, Jack Lifton, an expert on sources and uses of rare minerals, wrote a lengthy article for Resource Investor about the availability of tellurium for First Solar, a global leader in cadmium telluride solar panel manufacturering. Lifton’s conclusion should have served as a prophetic warning for Abound and any hope of profitability:

A company such as First Solar, which is critically dependent on a secure supply of tellurium to exist and on an unsustainable growth in the supply to it of tellurium for it to grow and achieve competitive pricing is a big risk for short-term investors. The maximum supply and production levels attainable of tellurium are quantifiable even if the actual production figures are murky, and they do not bode well for the future of First Solar if it must make profits to survive.

The next time you hear a politician like Max Tyler tout the benefits of “free” and “clean” energy, remember Abound Solar because there is no such thing as a free lunch.

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Spookiness at the DOE

October 12, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

Instead of figuring out what happened to your tax dollars with the bankrupt Colorado-based Abound Solar (leaving that to Congress and the Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck), the Department of Energy continues to be the PR firm for the Big Green agenda by promoting energy themed pumpkin carving patterns. Give them credit for including nuclear, but noticeably absent are any patterns for coal, natural gas, and oil, which are the sources for most of the power that Americans demand.

For those kiddos who want to carve pumpkins this Halloween, you can really spook trick-or-treaters with a solar panel or CFL themed jack-o-lantern. The smart kids will carve carbon-based energy sources because they know that affordable, reliable, and abundant energy is what powers our economy.

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Killer solar panels and the sobering reality of “green” energy

September 21, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

More solar panels and wind turbines are not solutions to the eco-left’s obsession with global carbon emission according to a new book from University of California – Berkeley visiting scholar Ozzie Zehner titled Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism.

Zehner said in an interview with the Huffington Post,

‘Alternative energy is not a free ride, just a different ride…and there’s no reason to believe it will offset fossil fuel use in a society that has high levels of consumption and is growing exponentially.’

Put another way, renewable energy only makes sense if undertaken in concert with other, more fundamental changes in the way we deploy and make use of energy in our everyday lives. At the moment, we’re really paying attention to the technology end of things, Zehner argues, and without a holistic approach, these innovations get us nowhere.

Zehner wants people to consume less. But there is more to his book than conservation. He argues that some green technology is actually worse than traditional fossil fuels that simply dump CO2 into the atmosphere

Green Illusions explains how the solar industry has grown to become one of the leading emitters of hexafluoroethane (C2F6), nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). These three potent greenhouse gases, used by solar cell fabricators, make carbon dioxide (CO2) seem harmless.

The main point is that “green energy” comes with a price, both economical and environmental. Go into it with your eyes wide open.

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CO Green dream proves nightmare for taxpayers

July 3, 2012 by admin · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

GIGAOM reports that, as of last week, General Electric is putting on hold its plan to be a major solar panel manufacturer in Colorado. According to the self-described emerging technology blog GIGAOM:

General Electric was set to become a major solar manufacturer when it announced a 400 MW factory in Colorado last year. Over a year later, though, it’s putting that plan on hold for 18 months or more while it works on coming up with a more competitive technology, Danielle Merfeld, general manger of solar technology at GE, told us on Tuesday.

It was only last month when a company spokeswoman told me by email that GE was still building its factory and hoping to start production in 2013. But the company reconsidered that plan in recent weeks after seeing solar prices tumbled significantly for over a year, and it stopped the factory building activities last week, Merfeld said.

When GE announced it was getting into the solar panel manufacturing business, several states chased after GE’s $300 million project and the promise of 355 green jobs with an average salary of $50,000. Colorado, specifically Aurora, landed the project after granting $28 million in state and local tax incentives. A glowing Denver Post house editorial from October 2011, called it a “coup,” explaining that “a growing green-energy sector in Colorado is a plus as the nation continues to confront issues of climate change and energy independence.”

Sounding like a broken record (for those who still remember vinyl), but we saw this coming in November 2011 when we predicted dark days ahead for solar manufacturers following layoffs from a Detroit based manufacturer .

A local news outlet, WOOD-TV, had the money quote:  ”supply for solar products worldwide is more than double the demand, so there is no need to make more.”

This is bad news for Colorado because taxpayers just threw a bunch of incentives at General Electric to locate a solar panel manufacturing plant in the state. Colorado already has several solar panel manufacturers including Abound Solar, Ascent Solar, and PrimeStar.

While losing a competitor might be good for the remaining manufacturers, an over-saturated market means more dark days on the horizon for solar panel manufacturers and thus for taxpayers.

Since November 2011, Abound has declared bankruptcy, GE has pulled the plug on the PrimeStar project, and Ascent has moved away from panels and into new consumer solar products such as cell phone chargers.

Former Governor Bill Ritter’s green dream for Colorado is turning into a nightmare for taxpayers. The question remains how long can Ritter sustain his own $300,000 job as the green ambassador for Colorado’s New Energy Economy, which appears to be the only real job “created.”

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Flashback: Drunk on Sunshine

June 28, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

A mere seven months ago, the Denver Business Journal quoted Abound Solar President and CEO Craig Witsoe bragging that his thin-filmed cadmium telluride solar panel manufacturing company was the “anti-Solyndra,” referring to the scandalous and abrupt bankruptcy of the California-based thin-filmed manufacturer that saw the FBI raid its luxurious taxpayer-supported headquarters.

Cathy Proctor of the DBJ further reported that Abound was “doing well and growing,” according to Witsoe. Proctor also quoted solar industry experts who said Abound had “a good chance of competing in the market” assuming it could lower the cost of its panels.

And Eric Wesoff of GreenTech Media reiterated the Abound as the anti-Solyndra theme, “They’re not Solyndra. Solyndra spent money like a drunken sailor, and it doesn’t seem like Abound is doing that.”

With today’s bankruptcy announcement, Abound turns out to be nothing more than another failed solar manufacturer that got drunk on the promise of sunshine and easy (taxpayer) money.

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CO Solyndra: Pat Stryker’s Abound Solar Goes Bankrupt

June 28, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

Pat Stryker’s Abound Solar “will close its doors and file for bankruptcy” next week according to the Department of Energy (DOE) blog. Because the bankruptcy means roughly $70 million in lost taxpayer money, we take no joy in saying that “we told you so.” Back on January 11, 2012, we wrote:

Unfortunately for taxpayers who provided a $400 million loan guarantee for Abound, 2012 may be the year that the sun sets on Pat Stryker’s pet project.

Apparently taxpayers have been venture capitalists invested in Abound Solar since 2007, well before the controversial $400 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan:

In 2007, the Department awarded the company a grant to support a pilot project to demonstrate the viability of its manufacturing process.  In December 2010, the Department issued a loan guarantee to support the construction of two commercial scale plants: one in Longmont, Colorado and a second new facility in Tipton, Indiana.

Perhaps Abound should have heeded Ronald Reagan’s warning when he said the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” John Keyes, founder of the first commercial solar energy corporation, knows this first hand. He explained in an interview that the worst thing to happen to the industry he loves was government involvement which began in the Carter Administration.

Rob Douglas wrote on WatchDog.org that the bureaucratic red tape involved with DOE loans ends up hamstringing businesses like Abound:

For example, the $400 million loan-guarantee agreement between Colorado-based Abound Solar and the DOE reveals that Abound Solar — and, it is safe to assume, all loan-guarantee recipients — had to comply with a staggering range of federal laws and regulations, including, but not limited to:

  • The Recovery Act;
  • The Davis-Bacon Act; Office of Management and Budget regulations;
  • Environmental laws (including those involving “air emissions, discharges to surface water or ground water, noise emissions, solid or liquid waste disposal, the use, generation, storage, transportation or disposal of toxic or Hazardous Substances or wastes, or other environmental health or safety matters”);
  • The Investment Company Act;
  • The Employee Retirement Income Security Act;
  • Buy American regulations;
  • Lobbying laws;
  • Foreign asset control laws;
  • Prohibited person laws;
  • Prohibited jurisdiction laws;
  • Corrupt practices laws;
  • The Anti-Terrorism Order.

Scratch the surface of any one of the above categories and you find requirements like this one, in the OMB compliance section:

“OMB shall have certified in writing (in form and substance satisfactory to DOE) that the DOE Credit Facility Documents and the Project comply with the provisions of the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, P.L. No. 111-8, Division C, Title III, as amended by Section 408 of the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2009, P.L. No. 111-32.”

Keep in mind that’s just one provision in more than 100 pages of detailed requirements that span the breadth and depth of federal laws and regulations. And in case the loan guarantee agreement by the DOE is not suffocating enough, the following legal, financial and regulatory blanket — as revealed in the Abound Solar documents — is placed atop the specific, enumerated rules and regulations loan-guarantee recipients are required to obey:

“All provisions of this term sheet are subject to the following (the “Program Requirements”): (i) the provisions of Title XVII, all applicable provisions of the Recovery Act, and the Applicable Provisions, (ii) all DOE or Federal Financing Bank (“FFB”) legal and financial requirements, policies, and procedures applicable to the Title XVII program from time to time, and (iii) the Office of Management and Budget’s Initial Implementing Guidance for the Recovery Act, M-09-10 (February 18,2009), Updated Implementing Guidance for the Recovery Act, M-09-15 (April 3, 2009), Updated Implementing Guidance for the Recovery Act, M-09-21 (June 22, 2009) and, in each case, any amendment, supplement or successor thereto (collectively referred to herein, the “OMB Implementing Guidance”).”

The Abound Solar loan-guarantee documents suggest that a newborn company, which lays down with the DOE, runs the risk of being smothered by the federal leviathan before ever bringing a product to market.

Not surprisingly, the DOE doesn’t take any responsibility for smothering the newborn. Instead, it blames China and then claims the answer is MORE taxpayer money. That might explain its cavalier attitude about losing taxpayer money:

While disappointing, this outcome reflects the basic fact that investing in innovative companies – as Congress intended the Department to do when it established the program – carries some risk.

Of course, there really isn’t much “risk” when using someone else’s money.

Complete Colorado’s Todd Shepherd reported, that Abound’s DOE loan guarantee had the appearance of more than just an investment in an upstart solar company. It looked a little more like political payback in a classic pay-to-play scheme. The billionaire heiress Pat Stryker could have financed the entire project herself, but instead used her political connections to put taxpayers on the hook.

For its part, in an online press release, Abound says it’s “appreciative of the significant investment from private investors and the U.S. Department of Energy.” Abound should be “appreciative” toward taxpayers who footed much of the bill for Styker’s and President Obama’s green fantasy.

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Ugly numbers for Xcel ratepayers

May 31, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

Lobbying at the state capitol:

According to January-April 2012 disclosure forms available on the Secretary of State’s Web site, Xcel Energy paid $126,393.90 for seven lobbyists at the state capitol. This included two lobbying firms and three Xcel in-house lobbyists.  The highest paid was 5280 Strategies run by Mike Beasley, well-known Capital Hill insider and former staffer for Governor Bill Owens.

Jan-12

Feb-12

Mar-12

Apr-12

5280 Strategies

$13,250.00

$13,250.00

$13,250.00

$13,250.00

$53,000.00

JLH Consulting

$8,333.37

$8,333.37

$8,333.37

$8,333.33

$33,333.44

Daniel Pfeiffer

$2,643.00

$5,485.80

$2,247.06

$2,247.00

$12,622.86

Michelle Stermer

$2,856.40

$3,858.96

$4,042.72

$4,042.00

$14,800.08

Ethnie Treick

$2,597.00

$3,635.52

$2,597.00

$3,808.00

$12,637.52

Total

$29,679.77

$34,563.65

$30,470.15

$31,680.33

$126,393.90

Some of the ratepayer-friendly bills Xcel successfully lobbied to kill in 2012 include:

In contrast, the Colorado Education Association spent a mere $45,384.80 on four lobbyists during the same period.

Jan-12

Feb-12

Mar-12

Apr-12

Garromone Mason

$4,014.87

$4,014.87

$4,014.87

$4,014.87

$16,059.48

Anthony Salazar

$500.00

$500.00

$500.00

$500.00

$2,000.00

Julie Whitacre

$3,615.00

$3,615.00

$3,615.00

$3,615.00

$14,460.00

Karen Wick

$3,216.33

$3,216.33

$3,216.33

$3,216.33

$12,865.32

Total

$11,346.20

$11,346.20

$11,346.20

$11,346.20

$45,384.80

Xcel Energy spends even more on lobbying in its home state of Minnesota. According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Xcel shelled out a whopping $2.43 million for 39 lobbyists in 2011 alone, making it the champion of lobbyist spending.

Xcel “the Corporate Tax Dodger”:

Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released their list of “Corporate Taxpayers & Corporate Tax Dodgers, 2008-2010.” The left-leaning organizations describe their report:

This study takes a hard look at the federal income taxes paid or not paid by 280 of America’s largest and most profitable corporations in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The companies in our report are all from Fortune’s annual list of America’s 500 largest corporations, and all of them were profitable in each of the three years analyzed. Over the three years, the 280 companies in our survey reported total pretax U.S. profits of $1.4 trillion.

  • In 2009, Xcel’s profit was $1.048 billion, with a tax rate of -3.8 percent.
  • Between 2005-2009, the tax rate for Colorado’s largest investor owned utility was 1.78 percent.

Furthermore, In an article titled “Lobbyists help lower corporate tax rates for companies investing in alternative energy” the Sunlight Foundation reported last year that Xcel was one of several energy companies that spent millions on lobbying for lower tax rates at the federal level:

Taxes have been a focal lobbying point for many of these companies…Two of them—NextEra Energy and Xcel Energy—reported spending millions on lobbying while listing taxes on their disclosures more than any other issue in 2010. Xcel reportedly paid a 1.78 percent tax rate over the 2005-2009 period.

The teams assembled by NextEra and Xcel included lobbyists with years of tax experience, often on the appropriate congressional committees or in the executive branch. They include a former member of the Ways and Means Committee, a former tax counsel for the Ways and Means Committee, a former political advisor to Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, and a former tax counsel to the Senate Finance Committee.

In the fourth quarter of 2010, six out of the fifteen outside lobbying firms hired by NextEra and Xcel listed energy tax provisions as the sole issue they lobbied on. Six other firms lobbied on a mix of issues including taxes.

Additional Numbers:

  • In 2008, former Xcel CEO Richard Kelly received $5.1 million in total compensation. In 2010, Kelly received $11.3 million, an increase of more than 120 percent.
  • Ben Fowke replaced Kelly who retired last year. Bloomberg Businessweek reports Fowke’s total compensation for 2011 was $9,676,420.
  • Over the last several years, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved Xcel rate increases of roughly 20 percent on Colorado consumers, with another 20 percent in increases expected within the next several years as well. Most recently the PUC approved a $114 million rate increase.
  • In his “Letter to Shareholders” in the 2011 Annual Report, Fowke wrote, “Ongoing earnings per share were $1.72 in 2011, compared with $1.62 in 2010. That means we achieved the upper half of our guidance range, making 2011 the seventh consecutive year in which we have met or exceeded our earnings guidance.  Ongoing earnings increased primarily due to higher electric margins as a result of warmer-than-normal summer weather across our service territory and rate increases in various states.” [Emphasis mine] Translation: Tiered rates penalize working families and line shareholders pockets.
  • Fowke also wrote, “stock price rose 17 percent in 2011 hitting a nine-year high in December.”
  • Xcel brags about being the number one provider of wind energy, which is more expensive and heavily subsidized.
  • According to the first quarter 2012 earnings report, Xcel earned 38 cents per share (EPS). Colorado’s roughly 1.4 million ratepayers representing slightly more than 25 percent of Xcel’s total customers accounted for 19 cents, or 50 percent, of the company’s EPS.  A trend we noticed in 2010.

Xcel Energy lobbies for consumers to pay more and for it to pay less, which would be fine if ratepayers had a choice in service providers.  But we don’t. As a result, Xcel profits handsomely as a state-sanctioned monopoly while consumers have no choice but to pay ever-higher energy bills.

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Controversial NREL Director to Chair National Science Board

May 18, 2012 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

In the wake of controversial comments advocating the end of fossil fuels as sources for US energy in order to combat global warming, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Director Dan Arvizu has been elected Chairman of the National Science Board (NSB) according to an NREL press release.

Just days ago during the World Renewable Energy Forum, Arvizu stated, “’fossil fuels should be phased out by 2040 to blunt man-made climate change,’”… and that natural gas is little more than “’a nice bridge technology, but not the answer we are looking for in terms of a transition and transformation,’” away from fossil fuels and toward alternatives such as wind, solar, and biofuels, of which NREL is a champion.

According to the NSB’s Web site,

The National Science Board has two important roles. First, it establishes the policies of NSF [National Science Foundation] within the framework of applicable national policies set forth by the President and the Congress. In this capacity, the Board identifies issues that are critical to NSF’s future, approves NSF’s strategic budget directions and the annual budget submission to the Office of Management and Budget, and approves new major programs and awards. The second role of the Board is to serve as an independent body of advisors to both the President and the Congress on policy matters related to science and engineering and education in science and engineering. In addition to major reports, the NSB also publishes occasional policy papers or statements on issues of importance to U.S. science and engineering.

The NREL press release describes the NSB:

The 25-member body advises the president and Congress on science and engineering issues, and is the policy-setting and budget-approving body for the National Science Foundation. With an annual budget of $6.9 billion, the foundation funds about 20 percent of all federally supported basic scientific research at U.S. colleges and universities. Arvizu will serve a two-year term as chairman.

With an anti-fossil fuel, global warming alarmist like Arvizu at the helm of the NSB, the politicalization of science will continue when it comes to energy policy.

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