Preventing green vs. blue

This was originally posted on

The N.Y. Times, in an article entitled "Geography is dividing Democrats over energy", makes much of an alleged split between those on the coasts, east and west, vs. those in the middle, as in the Midwest and Plains states. Somehow coal and manufacturing are grouped together, against a concern for global warming:

"There's a bias in our Congress and government against manufacturing, or at least indifference to us, especially on the coasts," said Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio. "It's up to those of us in the Midwest to show how important manufacturing is. If we pass a climate bill the wrong way, it will hurt American jobs and the American economy, as more and more production jobs go to places like China, where it's cheaper."

Since many if not most of my posts attempt to explain why manufacturing and green issues are mutually reinforcing instead of at loggerheads, I find this all very troubling. The problem seems to be that a cap-and-trade policy would make coal more expensive, thus make electricity for manufacturing more expensive; in addition, cap-and-trade might make energy-intensive industries, such as steel and chemicals, more expensive as well.

I think the way to square this circle is to pair cap-and-trade with direct governmental investment in helping coal dependent areas turn to green energy. In other words, if cap-and-trade was passed along with funding to build the wind and solar systems needed to replace the coal plants, then nobody would be worse off -- in fact, the Midwest and other manufacturing states would prosper by manufacturing the very wind turbines and solar panels that would be used to replace the coal plants -- as well as any on-site solar and wind that might be possible. But that would require big bucks from the Federal government.

Unless cap-and-trade is accompanied by direct funding for clean energy construction, I'm afraid cap-and-trade will be in big trouble in Congress.


Manufacturing getting dissed

I think many of us will agree with Sherrod Brown. I also do not think they are saying "no legislation to address global warming" here, I think he is saying one must take into consideration China, how that country will poison itself to make a buck and creation of a strategy to deal with that and not shaft the already decimated Midwest manufacturing sector.

Uh, they could start by modifying trade terms with China right now. That would help.

Then, possibly fund some raw research projects, located in the Midwest (there are some awesome research institutions in the Midwest, they could handle it) to try to generate cleaner energies that are super cheap and could handle the manufacturing sector needs.

Then, well, for example, there might be trade offs with dirty manufacturing energy requirements versus their final products which are more energy efficient.

But I get what they are saying is "don't screw us to poverty" while you try to push through your agenda, one must take into account overall economic energy models.

It can be done but so far, in my opinion, manufacturing generally gets the shaft from both parties and that includes just trading away highly secret, critical advanced technologies that are also a national security issue....
and of course many of these were original done in the Midwest.

But I do not believe this Senate caucus, Sherrod Brown, is saying at all "hey let's poison the planet to make a buck"..that's China's line frankly (see shipwrecking in Bangladesh as another example of the Poison to Profit model).

I'm not sure if cap-and-trade will survive anyway

Those who follow the legislation don't think that anything will come up until 2010. I think that the times have probably passed cap-and-trade, although I'm still too wimpy to say so on Grist-- cap-and-trade was developed during the "Reagan era", if we want to call the years 1981-2008 something, when the market was alleged to be king. But the problem with cap-and-trade (and carbon taxes) always was that it would increase costs. That doesn't sound like something politicians like, and it isn't; and in the place it has been pushed the most, Europe, cap-and-trade has been something of a disaster because anyone who is really polluting gets a break.

I've always pushed public investment over carbon pricing, and there are a few other people at Grist who do. Gar Lipow has excellent posts, if you want to check out his stuff there. He puts carbon pricing behind public investment and regulation as an effective strategy to counter global warming.

Sherrod Brown won't be the only one to point out the problems with cap-and-trade. In these "new" times, "stimulus" is a more popular concept than "market", and the stimulus bill actually has some stuff to help bring in clean energy (although not enough for mass transit, as has been noted). So I think that the choice is rather stark, and I hope the environmental groups in general start to move from "market-oriented" solutions to more government-directed ones.

JR on Grist

you can say whatever you want to on EP

as long as it's based on economic reality. The only sacrilege is to write economic fiction, really.

I don't really understand the entire cap and trade thing. I am pretty much only aware in a global scale that skirting around any environmental protection is something MNCs hunt high and low for, along with cheap, exploitable labor and financial/tax advantages and any other game they can play to pit differing nations against each other.

I'd think it would be cool at least for me to read on kind of a tutorial on the entire concept, esp. w/ an economic/global macro economic focus.

Yeah, the issue I have (which are many) with the Stimulus bill is making sure they use US companies, US workers and US raw materials and beyond the idea that stimulus should first and foremost give jobs to it's citizens....

is really more long term strategy to give the United States something to trade, including new intellectual property, patents in addition to finished product.

I'd like to see precisely on each component how many jobs, specfics on deployment and the NSF, NIS, NIH literally if you can believe this have been pushing labor policy to repress wages, esp. of post docs, researchers, graduate students and also some of our major universities are more busy building campuses in Dubai, India, China than paying attention to the fact they are federally and state funded for the United States and first, foremost have a responsibility to educate it's citizens, provide raw, fundamental research for the United States various interests...well, it's enough to make one puke (at least me).

The higher education "market" is estimated to be in the trillions, only below the financial sector (and this is before meltdown) in profits and I think that's a hidden motivator, despite the non-profit/public status of many of these higher educational and research institutions.

I don't know if batteries made it in, but a. it should and b. very specific terms like the above need to be done.

There is actually an unemployed glut of STEM people and it really isn't too bad, maybe an additional Masters degree, to move from say software engineering to power engineering and so on because the raw science undergraduate background is the same.

This is a side note but I thought of writing up a joke post on STD ed as an example. How many jobs created, how many workers, what kind of skills are required, esp. those demonstration skills. I mean seriously. One can put a few education videos on youtube and maybe some public service announcements to be shown in a study hall and be done with some of this. That is an absurd amount of money on something that is pretty easy to explain and "demonstrate".
$335 million. Give me the $335 million as a contract. I can put together some highly educational youtubes in no time that could also be entertaining!


The midwest

With a huge 1000-mile wide expanse between mountain ranges, is an excellent place to site a ring of windfarms on the outer edge. It's almost, but not quite, as nice as windfarms and wave farms on the coast, where the wind has thousands of unobstructed miles to build up speed.

Maximum jobs, not maximum profits.

There is ample room in the SouthWest...

...for the huge solar array called for by The Solar Grand Plan would cover approx. 30,000 square miles of area. But...


No bird problems...

No water needed...

Very little impact on the environment. The authors answer some questions here....

page down a bit to see their answers about change in albedo etc.





'When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck to crush him.'

I thought I had replied to this earlier

But thank you for the link. This is the first I've heard about the thermal effects of a large solar farm- seems to me they'd get some pretty good additional energy out of a ring of vertical screw windmills (which don't damage birds) around the solar farm with the drafts towards center.

Kind of like the same idea of putting vertical windmills on skyscrapers to provide a portion of the building's energy from the diversion of airflow around the building (that can easily gust up to 35 MPH on even a calm day)

Maximum jobs, not maximum profits.

BBC has an interesting look at energy, Iowa, and the stimulus--

Iowa's green energy policy struggle --

BruceMF, jonrynn are two on EP

That probably know about the economic aspects of biofuels, Iowa, what is the most economical, etc. They are on here but both had their own blogs, columns as well. List of bloggers, users on the site links to their blogs (on EP, but they should have their own blogs listed here too, etc.).

Keep in mind that Iowa corn can no longer.... sold to the EU. The entire crop is contaminated by Monsanto's insane 'pilot project' use of GMO corn. Read about it in Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power'.

Or check out his article from the center of the disaster: Genetically modified grain exports remain strong.

Note: the countries, not mentioned in this article, are third world countries. Our dumping of this dubious crop is very reminiscent of what other American corporations have done with baby formula and cigarettes.

A quote from it:

There are hungry ethanol plants and livestock, and grain processors and many countries welcome the technology, officials said. Prior to planting, farmers are informed by seed companies and dealers what countries accept a variety, and receive written documentation to sign.

Few biotech varieties aren't accepted by the nation's major export customers, such as Japan, China and Mexico. But even varieties not widely accepted overseas are easily sold domestically.

"Anything not EU approved needs to go to the (Jesup) feed mill," Stewart said. "They (farmers) know going in that particular bushels need to go to specific locations, otherwise they wouldn't be raising it."

Which explains all the noise about biofuels, never mind they take more oil to produce than they return in the form of gasohol....

And 'livestock processors' means you end up eating this stuff. The effect on humans who eat GMO fed animals or processed cereal?


Who knows?


One thing's for sure. Your government don't give a shit.



'When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck to crush him.'

they're being protectionist? and we're not supposed to???


Biofuels won't work

as a general solution to peak oil, in my opinion. in fact, the collective wisdom at grist and most of the environmental community basically sees biofuels as a disaster, in many ways worse than oil. The basic reasons: for most sources of biofuels, they use at best almost as much energy as they provide; they lead to soil-destroying monocultural practices; they lead to further deforestation, as farmers convert their croplands to corn or other sources, then the formerly grown crop (such as soy) is grown in formerly rain forests in the Amazon, for instance; according to one statistic I read some time ago, you'd have to starve all nonamericans in order to grow enough biofuels to feed just america's cars.

The basic problem is this; most of the "free" energy we're getting from oil was providing by the geothermal energy of the Earth, that slowly cooked biological material into oil. It wasn't the biological material so much as it was the geothermal cooking, yet people think, "well, oil is from plants, so all we need to do is make more plants". No, all we need is an oven the size of Earth.

so I would definitely not list biofuels as a "green" alterntive, as attractive as it might sound. eventually, transportation will have to move from completely oil-based (almost) to completely electricity based (almost).

JR on Grist

Question on biofuels

How about algae? My understanding is there are so algae which would increase green life, increase wetlands which also could be harvested.

That are economic, both in harvesting as well as Joules output vs. required energy for production.

Also, the sea/water in wetlands has a potential difference, i.e. it's a glorified biochemical battery.

There are plenty of biofuels that do work

Even more when you consider more modern bacterial methods of producing the actual biofuel from the crop.

Algae's a good one however- it's already 50% biodiesel, just run it through a strainer practically. And you get a new crop every 24 hours.

Maximum jobs, not maximum profits.

I'd like to see some analysis.... to energy inputs for 'biofuels' vs. outputs. Simple assertion is not, according to Robert, what EP is all about.

I know from my reading at The OilDrum that corn don't get it. I do not know what the equation is for algae.

Be very interested to see that.

'When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck to crush him.'

From the Oil Drum

...algae biofuel needs lots and lots of...

...water. This is not a good thing as water will be in short supply very shortly.

The general take on that site is that the technology of algae is, '...not ready...'.

Anyone else have some data or opinion on this?

'When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck to crush him.'

brackish water

I'm not sure why they believe algae takes up too much water at all. Wetlands are a mix of salt and fresh water, it's brackish and increased wetlands also help the environment, animals, breakers for hurricanes and so on...

So, in Oregon for example, there are tons of water and it's not drinkable, it is where the sea meets the rivers.

I think the same is true for Louisiana.

Well, I know from personal experience

That come August, every summer, in water I wouldn't drink in my brother's irrigation pond, we get algae. Alge 3" deep covering an entire acre.

I suspect you don't need potable water to raise algae- and in fact, I don't think you need *continuing* water input at all, just more carbon dioxide & sunlight.

Maximum jobs, not maximum profits.

from a macro economic level

absolutely alt. energy is viable for discussion on EP...

cost effectiveness, production, labor, jobs...

energy is a huge import and adds to the trade deficit...
then there are hidden costs of global warming/pollution that are also economic in nature.

Corn didn't used to

But modern methods of fermentation and fertilization along with better tractors have corn ethanol at 1.34 x input, a far cry above the 1970s.

Here's a darn good article with links that I found using google.

And on algae specific- the Wikipedia article suggests it might be as high as 16.5x Input- though I have my doubts.

However, it looks like biofuels have, in general, gotten a lot better than those 1970s numbers that The Oil Drum was using.


Maximum jobs, not maximum profits.

My point would be that....

...for large solar energy arrays you don't need water of any sort. The impact on the environment is very minimal and if.... ...I say if the freakin' 'smart grid' included we could put these solar arrays in areas where the environmental and aesthetic impact would be minimal. It's not clear to me how much energy pumping a lot of water and last time I looked algae needs a lot of water around would be needed. Sunlight doesn't need to be pumped, protected from evaporation, kept at the proper ph and nutrient balance for good algae production. Algae does hold promise for the future I agree but.... Solar can be done right freakin' now with off the shelf tech. Tech that is out of the laboratory and being used all over the world.

Even here


'When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck to crush him.'


Last night I realized GE is pushing the smart grid...oooo, oooo, oooo...

while watching the commercials. They ran one on it.

GE is one of the worst MNCs to push offshore outsourcing, bad trade deals, global labor arbitrage and somehow I doubt they give a rats ass about alternative energies except to snag big fat government contracts....

So, because they have the labor arbitrage beast from hell, the first company to start screwing over it's employees as a method of boosting quarterly profits....

there assuredly had to be a host of conditions on that contract.


Algae needs still water

Not pumped water. Best setup I've seen for algae growth is a sealed glass tank, cylindrical, with a filter system and the water reused, only input needed is carbon dioxide. MIT's vision is to site them next to coal power plants to grow biodiesel with the smoke.

Maximum jobs, not maximum profits.

Um..quick question

Could windfarms in say North Dakota or southern Illinois be enough to power factories in say Indiana, Michigan or Ohio??

power grid

I believe the problem and last I saw this is one of the major infrastructure projects in the stimulus, hopefully it survives, is the power lines to transport the energy from wind farms do not exist.

The power grid generally in the U.S. is antiquated and analog technology and needs to be seriously updated for (how do I say this non-technically?) "better routing" algorithms.

To me, this one is a no brainer in terms of public works projects...just like in the 30's they built a water distribution and electricity distribution system. Those projects boosted the economy by raising income, i.e. demand (pure Keynesian) plus invested in the United States and made the nation highly competitive for business as well as war frankly after the depression was over.

Theoretically, yes

and quite a bit more, in fact. The work of Mark Z. Jacobson at Stanford University has been critical on this. He has shown, for instance, that North Dakota alone could probably supply all of the electricity needs of the country from wind -- the big problems being transmission lines, first, and intermittency, second. Which is why Jacobson did a paper on how a nationwide grid of windfarms could solve much of the intermittency problem.

That, along with solar (you could have huge solar farms in the Southwest deserts, for instance), would probably do the trick. Gar Lipow at grist has done some good work on this; I should get a better list of references for you, and to flame just a bit, there ought to be much more research along these lines from academia.

JR on Grist

I can definantly see those solar farms

Not we're doing anything with our deserts anyways. I can only imagine how much juice we could get with arrays in Death Valley alone! Or am I wrong here? To be honest, I'm not the engineer or scientist on here, but isn't Death Valley one of the hottest places in the US? Couldn't it work?

Yes, we could do it

although to be fair to one of the regular commenters on grist, there is a toll on ecosystems even building in the deserts...but I think we have a triage problem, and i don't think much of the desert would be impacted. I believe someone on this thread pointed to the grand solar one (sp?) project that has been advocated by some scientists -- just as the Plains states could provide all of our electricity from wind, so the Southwest could provide it all from solar (there are even reports showing that the sahara could provide all of the world's energy needs, more than electricity).

Now, yours truly thinks that the government should just construct them with public dollars, and make them publicly owned, but then we have the enormous weight of the utilities to contend with...but somehow Obama is trying to upgrade the grid, I would guess by shoveling money at the utilities, which might be the only way to get them to upgrade the grid since they don't make any profit from it (profit in these deregulated days seems to come mostly from generating).

This is also in response to Robert above, but there's a nice post by Gail the Actuary at that is much more technical and thorough, about the grid.

JR on Grist

That was me still trying to get somebody...

...anybody from this site to read The Solar Grand Plan.


I'm very concerned about the proposed 'smartgrid'. I've visited numerous government sites about it and even emailed the supposed head of this effort, no reply as of yet, and nowhere do I see the plans for....


High Voltage Direct Current lines.


This is a major disaster. AC lines are not nearly as capable as HCDC lines are of efficiently transmitting power for long distances.


Ask the Chinese.


I can only hope, I will be emailing him, that Stephen Chu gets this fixed.


The 'smartgrid' will be a disaster if it does not incorporate HVDC backbones.




'When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck to crush him.'


I have not been tracking on power engineering topics in the ANSI/IEEE etc. bodies but I sincerely doubt they would ignore more efficient technologies in a power grid redesign.

I'd look there to find it but US standards bodies, engineers are usually on top of their shit in these areas. ;)

(Policy people and Politicians won't be designing the actual grid infrastructure thank God!)

on his post

I think he is confusing the distribution system with the source energy. In other words the source energy can be anything, i.e. wind farm, solar panels, wave energy....

the grid itself is just a distribution mechanism. It's a huge routing algorithm, similar to how one schedules air flights, in addition to the underlying transmission line distribution issues where energy is lost in the lines...

So, the grid would not "produce more CO2" that's the source energy which would be attached to the grid. So, in other words, build up power transmission lines to a wind farm in CO2. Of course local sources will be in conjunction with grid upgrades...

So, location of cheaper, non-polluting, environmentally friendly sources just is not going to be stopped due to a modern distribution mechanism. He believes that magically one will have a "race to the bottom" on energy sources, but the key is to get into global/federal law, penalties for polluting systems so that cannot happen.

Instead, many alt energy sources which currently are not deployed....because they have no distribution system in place...can be "hooked into" the grid....

So, the grid is actually an alt. energy enabler.

In terms of costs, just like the 1930's grid really paid for itself in investment, generation of jobs, enabling of industrial production, business...hell the entire modern communications era (can't have no dang Internets w/o the power button!)....that's just not an expenditure at all...
it's an investment which in indirect ways pays for itself many times over.

In terms of timeline? they could speed it up. 20 years is a pathetically absurd timeline. I mean this is not the Panama canal here w/o the technology to dig it.

as well as the statement the grid will not be upgradable...that is the fundamental design of the new is upgradable.

Then the argument of reducing the energy used would say there isn't a problem with global warming?

uh, the whole point of addressing global warming is to reduce energy consumption that is cost I says...put in the money!

Also, the power grid is a national security issue. It can be attacked, even remotely and if that happens, the entire United States is shut down. Everything is build upon the grid, or power distribution.

The grid will definetly not be 'upgradeable'...

...from AC to HVDC. they are totally different technologies requiring different pylons, transformers and power line construction. As for the engineers designing the system having a say in how it will be built. That would be a real first. It's been decades since that was the case in a public works project in this country. It's all about the politics and who owns what supplier. Wanna bet somebody in the Dept. of Energy is gonna recommend that Seimons get the contract? Again, I looked all through the Department of Energy's pages on The Smart Grid and could not find any reference to HVDC power lines. Now I am not asserting that they are not going to look at this technology but...'s kind of worrying that they don't even mention it.


'When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck to crush him.'

I'll keep my eye out

I pointed to a couple of standards bodies because that should be where the design originates from. If it's really not there....a place to bitch is the House Science committee. They have scientists on the legislative staff and thus you have a chance on "stuck on stupid" but "plug n play" architecture documents I briefly scanned all imply upgradable due to the component style of system architecture. I haven't looked in depth.

Death Valley

Would do better with thermal generators than solar- think mirrors concentrating the infrared onto sterling engine generators.

Maximum jobs, not maximum profits.

the stimulus is being given to states mostly, no?

that immediately means it'll all be patchwork if at all -- and the national grid won't be helped (which is itself not really national, i think)

All the coasts should do solar, tidal, and wind and hydro where they can, and the middle can use solar and wind.

We have plenty of options everywhere in the country, i'd say.

I disagree

Part of our big problem in energy generation and finance is too many eggs in one basket- the same problem you get with communism. Centralization doesn't do much good- we're better off with decentralization and local solutions wherever possible.

Maximum jobs, not maximum profits.


...that's where CA's 'Million Solar Roof Initiative' shows the way. But like President Obama I do believe we can do more than one thing at a time. The key to all this is to really build a 'smart grid' that allows for small producers to get online and upgrades the efficiency of electrical power transmission.

We as a nation need to get this right. That means that engineers and scientists and us  citizens need to 'proof read' the 'smart grid' and make sure it does work.


In all waysl.

'When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck to crush him.'

but the underlying grids themselves are not really national

-- won't whatever "upgrades" happen be state-by-state or region-by-region?

and don't we need something truly national in terms of the lines and carrying capacity, etc, in order for alt energy to actually boom?

In the west

the underlying grid is semi-naitional. Energy from Bonneville actually flows to the entire west coast.

Maximum jobs, not maximum profits.