Filed under: Environmental Protection Agency, Legal, Legislation, preferred energy, renewable energy
More than 400 people turned out last week for the “Stop the EPA Power Grab” rally for affordable energy just across Lincoln Avenue from the west steps of the Capitol.
Coal miners, their families, representatives of more than 20 allied mining and natural resource groups, union members, business leaders, and affordable energy activists from Colorado and many states across the Rocky Mountain region gathered to address the Environmental Protection Agency’s “listening tour” for its newly unveiled “Clean Power Plan.”
The Independence Institute was a co-sponsor of the event, along with Americans for Prosperity-Colorado, the Colorado Mining Association, and several other business and civic groups from Wyoming, Montana, and Utah. Union groups represented included the AFL-CIO of Wyoming and Boilermakers of Montana.
Over the next two years, the EPA expects each state to develop its own plan to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels.
These regulations are designed to hurt coal–and by extension, will harm low income, minorities, the elderly, and rural communities that rely on coal for affordable, reliable energy. The rule will likely artificially raise the price of electricity substantially, while inefficient and more expensive sources of energy are substituted.
While agnostic on the question of energy sources, the Independence Institute is not agnostic on the intrusion of government in the free market energy arena, and believes that each state’s energy mix should be market-driven, not shaped by onerous and far-reaching regulations that stifle competition and raise electricity rates.
That was the message the Independence Institute wished to share with the attendees last week.
The text of my speech, more or less as delivered:
Good afternoon! My name is Michael Sandoval and I’m an energy policy analyst and investigative reporter for the Independence Institute, and I’d like to tell you a little bit about how mining brought my family to Colorado 86 years ago.
More than 100 years ago, my great-grandfather Anthony, a poor Italian immigrant, moved to Utah to mine coal and achieve the American Dream–earn a living for his growing family. With the money he earned from coal mining, he moved to Denver’s Little Italy, and in 1928, along with his son–my grandfather–he purchased a grocery store that was a fixture in the Italian-American community for 7 decades, eventually becoming an historic landmark.
I stand before you a product of that rich mining heritage, and I am deeply grateful for it.
I also stand WITH you. I will NOT let the EPA CRUCIFY COAL–to use the words of Al Armendariz, former EPA administrator and now Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaigner.
Our natural resources are both a blessing and a driving economic force in our region. They provide tens of thousands of good-paying jobs and they keep the lights on and, this time of year, the air conditioning running not just for us but for our most vulnerable community members.
But EPA outsiders have decided that a different energy path should be followed. They pay lip service to those affected by having a handful of “listening tours” AFTER they’ve decided which predetermined policy course they should undertake.
That is why we are here today. To let the EPA know that we already have ABUNDANT AFFORDABLE, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, RELIABLE ENERGY.
The Independence Institute is agnostic on energy sources–we do not care if the energy comes from hydro, coal, solar, natural gas, nuclear, or wind–but we are not agnostic on the subject of government intrusion into the energy sector–free energy markets, not preferred energy mandates, should guide our economy.
Achieving our own energy mix should come from market forces as businesses and consumers choose what is best for them, not onerous regulations imposed by anonymous EPA bureaucrats.
Government agencies like the EPA or the Department of Energy should NOT be in the business of picking energy winners and losers with this proposal, which EPA DIRECTOR GINA MCCARTHY ADMITTED “ISN’T ABOUT POLLUTION CONTROL” JUST LAST WEEK IN A SENATE COMMITTEE.
THIS PITS corporate cronies–WHAT MCCARTHY DUBS “INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN CLEAN AND RENEWABLE ENERGY” against the poor, the elderly, minorities, rural communities.
Nothing was more poignant than last October, when the EPA last made a stop at its Region 8 office, as miners and rural business owners and suppliers–along with their families–were forced to plead for their livelihoods with agency representatives.
We are here, along with all of the other organizations and friends here today, to say NO–say it with me–NO–to the EPA’s energy power grab.
DON’T BE FOOLED into thinking this is just about coal, or that hydraulic fracturing is just about natural gas. Folks, this is about an agenda for putting an end to the use of ALL of our natural resources, not just in Colorado, but in the entire Rocky Mountain West.
A secret government energy lab here went on heightened alert after one of its employees used Twitter to threaten mass murder against Watchdog reporters, according to internal memos and emails received under the Freedom of Information Act.
But the added security measures utilized by the National Renewable Energy Lab weren’t to isolate and chastise staffer Kerrilee Crosby, who used Twitter in late 2012 to advocate what she called “a murderous rampage.”
Instead, the lab was concerned because an unidentified individual sent Crosby an email labeled “Because you deserve to die” — the same words Crosby used in her threat against Watchdog.
It was the subsequent threat from an unidentified individual (the name was redacted in the Freedom of Information Act documents released) that prompted this reaction from NREL:
“Details are still being assembled and the likelihood of making contact remains low.
A person named (redacted) has made a veiled threat against NREL employee Kerry Crosby.
Should we come into contact with (redacted) we are to call 911 immediately… Keep in mind, we cannot be sure this is the right name. Be very suspicious of anyone unexpected looking for Kerry Crosby.
Jeffco is already engaged in this issue.”
According to Watchdog, while the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department pooh-poohed the threat made by Crosby against the reporting outfit by refusing to take a police report, it appeared fully prepared to provide assistance to NREL–by opening a case and visiting the agency’s campus.
NREL’s security office issued these warnings to workers:
1. Be aware of an increase in anger at NREL and our mission
2. NREL Security will step up vehicle searches
3. Be prepared for an increase in press inquiries and amateur information seekers
4. Understand that this story may inspire others to be angry toward NREL, government spending, green energy, people who make threats, etc.
“The number of web-based news sources repeating the Watchdog story continues to grow,” the memo said.
Crosby drew in the Independence Institute’s Energy Policy Center director Amy Oliver Cooke into the original series of threatening tweets she made in late 2012 when she included a link to a photo of Cooke.
“I can’t remember where I left my gun, though. Found it! http://t.co/MuOpukem,” she tweeted. The original link has been removed.
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.
IP-10-2012 (July 2012)
Author: Donovan D. Schafer
PDF of full Issue Paper
Scribd version of full Issue Paper
A ban on fracking would not satisfy those who present general arguments against any kind of development. Acceptance of these arguments would require an outright ban on all oil and gas activities, new wind farm construction, electric transmission construction, residential housing developments, road construction, and the like. Before accepting any argument against fracking as sufficient grounds to restrict or ban its use, one should take that argument to its logical conclusion and consider the full set of repercussions. For if such arguments are granted valid status, they will be used again and again by whichever parties can benefit from shutting down any particular form of development.
This column appeared originally on Townhall Finance.
Crony capitalism Abound: anatomy of a taxpayer-guaranteed loan
By Amy Oliver Cooke
By now it’s obvious that the Solyndra scandal never should have happened. It’s not even a case of Monday morning quarterbacking. A number of people involved could see the disaster coming.
There is a larger principle here. Government should not use taxpayer money to socialize risk while privatizing profits. Examples such as Colorado-based Abound Solar, which received a $400 million loan guarantee, prove that crony capitalism simply rewards the well connected at taxpayer expense.
Abound Solar, according to its Web site, “produces next-generation thin-film cadmium telluride solar modules” and “is committed to reducing the cost of solar electricity to levels competitive with fossil fuels.”
It is the brainchild of former Colorado State University (CSU) Professor W.S. Sampath and two former students Kurt Barth and Al Enzenroth. It began as AVA Solar and then incorporated into Abound in 2007.
The Web site says it employs 350 people in three Colorado locations. Its Colorado manufacturing plant is located in Weld County, which granted Abound up to $100,000 per year for the next ten years in business property tax rebates. According to sources, the reason for the rebate was job creation intended to benefit Weld County residents. Yet when officials and interested parties ask how many of the 350 jobs have gone to Weld County residents, the solar company does not answer.
Currently Abound has a manufacturing capacity of 65 megawatts expanding to 850 megawatts – at some point. However, in 2010 it manufactured only 30 megawatts. One wonders, if Abound can produce more, why doesn’t it?
The Web site does say it is “growing,” and news reports claim the company plans to add anywhere from 850 to 1,000 employees thanks to a $400 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan Abound received in July 2010. The taxpayer cash is so it can expand its manufacturing capabilities to a facility in Tipton, Indiana. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation “extended up to $11.85 million in tax credits and $250,000 in training grants” as well.
Abound Solar further claims $260 million in private investments, part of which came from billionaire medical heiress Pat Stryker’s Bohemian Companies. This is where the story gets interesting.
Thanks to Independence Institute investigative reporter Todd Shepherd, we still have access to the Web page that lists Bohemian as an investor even though it does not appear on the company’s current Web site. The exact amount that Stryker has given is not public at this time. Also, CSU and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are listed as funding resources.
Total public and private monies equal $673,100,000. Assuming Abound can “create” some 1,350 jobs, that is $498,593 per job, of which $360,000 comes from public coffers.
However, Abound’s Indiana manufacturing facility is not scheduled to open until 2013 or 2014, which seems like a long time to wait to “create” jobs and turn a profit.
As a comparison, the Denver Bronco’s stadium cost $364 million to build of which 68 percent was publicly financed. With a yes vote from taxpayers in November 1998, construction began in August 1999 and was completed in September 2001.
This is not an endorsement of publicly funded professional sports facilities but rather an assumption that the Broncos management didn’t want a disruption in cash flow that could come from the inconvenience of a lengthy construction project.
I asked Abound if the company is still on track for a 2013 expansion and received no response. For most companies, time means money except in solar panels.
Forbes lists medical heiress and founder of Bohemian Companies/Foundation Pat Stryker as number 331 of its top “400 Richest People in America.” Worth $1.3 billion, the Fort Collins resident could single-handedly fund Abound Solar and still be well above the poverty line.
While some of her fortune has gone to Abound Solar, she also has chosen to donate more than $2.2 million (probably a low figure) to Democrats and their causes over the last several election cycles. Beneficiaries include Barack Obama, one-term Congresswoman and Fort Collins resident Betsy Markey, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar when he successfully ran for U.S. Senate in Colorado.
Stryker is also a charter member of the notorious “gang of four” which changed the political landscape in Colorado through an organization called the Colorado Democracy Alliance (CoDA). Their success was titled the “Colorado Miracle” and is being replicated in other states.
Congresswoman Betsy Markey
With the help from Stryker in 2008, Markey beat incumbent republican Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave in Colorado’s conservative 4th Congressional District. Abound Solar, Pat Stryker, and Colorado State University are all in the 4th CD. Between 2008 and 2010 election cycles, CSU employees also donated nearly $27,000 to Markey’s campaigns.
When the Waxman-Markey (named for Congressmen Henry Waxman and Ed Markey) cap and trade bill, which included a national renewable energy standard, came up for a vote, Congresswoman Markey danced around the issue for weeks because it wasn’t a popular bill in the 4th CD. Ultimately she voted “yes.”
In an interview on my radio show following the vote, Markey cited “green jobs” as one of her reasons. What she didn’t cite was her relationship to Pat Stryker and Abound Solar or the $2,000 campaign contribution she received from Henry Waxman the night before the vote.
Shortly after the vote, Abound Solar was part of a group that helped pay for TV ads thanking Markey for saying yes to Waxman’s bill. Todd Shepherd exposed the politically incestuous relationship and suggested:
[T]he connections between Representative Betsy Markey (D, CO-4), billionaire heiress Pat Stryker, and Abound Solar, appear to have all of the fingerprints of the kind of pay-to-play agenda that has left many Americans wondering how they got stuck with unpopular bills such as cap and trade, formally known as Waxman-Markey (named after a different Markey).
Markey also urged the approval of Abound’s $400 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan. The Denver Business Journal reported, “Abound applied for the loan guarantee more than a year ago, and Markey and other members of Colorado’s congressional delegation pushed for approval.”
Colorado State University
Located in Fort Collins, Colorado, CSU fancies itself the “green” university:
“Colorado State University is internationally known for its green initiatives and clean-energy research including alternative fuels, clean engines, photovoltaics, “smart” grid technology, wind engineering, water resources, and satellite-based atmospheric monitoring and tracking systems. It’s also known as a “green” university for its sustainability efforts on campus and abroad.
Abound Solar founders got their start at CSU as the university bragged in a 2007 press release.
Stryker also has a connection to CSU, having donated millions to the university. Furthermore, former CSU president Al Yates became Stryker’s mouthpiece and representative on CoDA. The Blueprint, a must-read book from Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer, details the Yates-Stryker relationship along with how democrats won control in Colorado.
Finally, CSU is home to the Center for the New Energy Economy headed by former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, a renewable energy activist, and funded by private donations, a third of which came from Stryker’s Bohemian Foundation. Ritter now makes $300,000 to promote renewable energy throughout the country.
Governor Bill Ritter
With the help of CoDA and Pat Stryker, Democrat Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter won the 2006 Governor’s race. His one term legacy is the state’s New Energy Economy, 57 pieces of legislation to move the state from reliance on less costly on fossil fuels to renewables. Ritter is a true believer, an eco-evangelical, who signed laws mandating 30 percent renewable energy standards and fuel switching.
In April 2009, Governor Ritter hand-delivered two letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu who was touring NREL. One letter urged the Department of Energy to grant a $300 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan to Abound Solar:
This request for $300 million would allow [Abound Solar] to triple production capacity within 12 months, develop a second manufacturing facility within 18 months and hire an additional 1,000 employees.
Abound received $400 million in July 2010. By all accounts, the solar panel company will not meet Ritter’s original promise of triple capacity in a year and a new facility within 18 months. Just won’t happen that fast.
When Ritter left office in January 2011, he became the Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at CSU and one of the highest paid administrators on campus, thanks to Stryker.
President Barack Obama
President Obama received $11,700 directly from Stryker and Joseph Zimlich, who is a director at Abound Solar and is also associated with Stryker’s Bohemian Foundation. No doubt Obama benefitted as well from Stryker’s donations to other democrat causes including Campaign Money Watch and Democrat White House Victory Fund.
In Obama’s weekly radio address on July 3, 2010, he announced an acceleration of “the transition to a clean energy economy and doubling our use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power – steps that have the potential to create whole new industries and hundreds of thousands of new jobs in America.”
He said that Abound Solar:
will manufacture advanced solar panels at two new plants, creating more than 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs. A Colorado plant is already underway, and an Indiana plant will be built in what’s now an empty Chrysler factory. When fully operational, these plants will produce millions of state-of-the-art solar panels each year.
That radio address was the formal announcement that Abound Solar received a $400 million loan guarantee courtesy of U.S. taxpayers. Taxpayers get the risk while individuals get the profit.
To recap, Abound Solar receives support from Pat Stryker and Colorado State University both of which fund and promote Congresswoman Betsy Markey. She in turn votes yes on Cap and Trade and urges the federal government to approve the Abound loan.
Abound Solar then contributes to TV ads thanking Markey for her yes vote on Cap and Trade.
Governor Bill Ritter hand delivers letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu urging the DOE to grant the loan guarantee. When he decides not to run for a second term, he is offered a job at CSU, which is funded in part by Pat Stryker.
President Barack Obama benefitted from Pat Stryker’s political donations. In July 2010, he announces a $400 million loan guarantee to Abound.
Can’t get a $400 million loan? Apparently you don’t know and fund the right people.
A recently released report titled “The Wind Power Paradox” from BENTEK Energy finds that wind energy is neither green nor cost effective. In a radio interview with Amy Oliver Cooke on News Talk 1310 KFKA (Part I and II), BENTEK president Porter Bennett* (a self-described “natural gas guy”) explained that the because the wind blows intermittently and usually when energy demand is low, wind requires fossil-fuel based back-up power.
The constant ramping up or “cycling” of the base load power plant actually increases carbon emissions. It’s analogous to how your car performs in city traffic versus more efficient highway driving. This issue is not new. What is new about this study is that it is the first to “systematically assess the emission reduction performance of wind generation based on hourly generation and emissions data.”
According to Bennett, wind as a small scale power supply such as for an individual home or farm is very green. However as a large scale power source such as commercial wind farms, it is actually much less eco-friendly than modern fossil fuel power plants.
Also wind is expensive. When asked if wind would be competitive without tax subsidies, Bennett replied no. When asked if wind would be competitive without the benefit of a carbon tax on fossil fuel, Bennett replied no. When asked if he thought investor owned utilities such as Xcel Energy would procure wind as a reliable, cost effective energy source without a state mandate, Bennett replied no.
- Wind as a large scale energy source does not reduce carbon emissions.
- Without corporate welfare and a carbon tax, wind is not an economical source of energy.
- Without a mandate, wind probably isn’t a large scale source of energy.
Replacing one megawatt hour of fossil fuel generated energy with one megawatt of wind generated energy does not automatically equate to reduced emissions, and it most certainly isn’t cost effective. The actual cost of wind energy must include its own deficiencies as a large power source but sadly this is often lost on policy makers and self-described environmentalists so infatuated with wind energy that they cannot get beyond the hot air that is blowing in the wind.
*Porter Bennett makes no apologies for his support of natural gas, especially as an alternative to coal. The Independence Institute is agnostic about energy sources. We promote a least cost principle when it comes to energy sources — free of taxpayer-funded subsidies, carbon taxes and mandates.
Primer on the Many Implementation Plans that the PUC Is Considering
Primer on HB 1365
Timeline of Implementation Plans
Study on the Dubious Foundations of HB 1365
Archive of HB 1365 Posts
Oped Last Week in Denver Daily News: Ritter’s Phantom Carbon Tax
As of this post [10:08 AM], the PUC has yet to post a written copy of the Department of Public Health and Environment’s determination whether Xcel’s two new fuel switching plans meet “reasonably foreseeable” federal and state air regulations. Yesterday, Chairman Ron Binz said that the CDPHE’s filing was due last evening at 5 PM. If the CDPHE finds that the two fuel switching plans do not meet “readily foreseeable” air quality regulations, then they must be discarded. The CDPHE ruling will likely be the first topic of discussion at the hearing this morning.
After the PUC considers the CDPHE determination, Chairman Binz has promised to revisit his “tentative” decision to allow Xcel to put forth an accelerated version of its preferred plan, despite strong opposition from the PUC Staff. The two fuel switching plans and the accelerated version of the preferred plan were proposed by the utility last week.
William Yeatman is an energy policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute