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Study Suggests That, Unlike in the ’70s, Energy Lessons Will Last

Clifford Krauss, New York Times
The oil shocks of the 1970s produced a flurry of attention to alternative sources of energy, but it faded once prices dropped in the mid-1980s. Now, with oil prices again high and climate change moving up the list of public concerns, interest in alternative energy is once again at fever pitch.

Is history about to repeat itself?

Not likely, according to a leading energy consulting firm. In a report scheduled for release Tuesday, the firm, Cambridge Energy Research Associates, concludes that multiple factors will continue pushing the world toward greater use of alternative energy sources like sun and wind power, regardless of what happens to oil prices.

“The focus today on clean energy is not a bubble or passing phenomenon,” the report says. “Unconventional clean energy is now poised to cross the divide and move from the fringes of the energy sector to the mainstream.”

What makes today different from the 1970s is growing apprehension about global warming as a threat to political security and the environment, according to the report. That is pushing governments to demand, and subsidize, greater use of alternative energy.

“Climate change and putting a price on carbon will change the dynamics of the energy marketplace,” said Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates and a leading historian on the oil industry. He noted that with the Chinese and Indian economies growing rapidly, “you need renewables as part of the solution to meet this astonishing demand growth.”
(5 February 2008)
Noted by Big Gav who writes:
The New York Times is quoting CERA and Daniel Yergin as saying that global warming will drive large scale investment in clean energy. No mention of peak oil, but global warming serves as a good proxy to encourage the right responses…

5 Myths About Earth-Friendly Energy

Lisa Margonelli, Washington Post
Last year, Americans spent more greenbacks on oil than any other nation — about $517 billion, according to the Energy Information Administration. But we’ve failed to lead in developing green energy, and that’s going to cost us even more.

Historically, we’ve treated renewable energy and energy efficiency as virtuous, feel-good projects rather than shrewd investments in the industries of the future. It shows: We now trail China and Germany in renewable-power production and lag behind Japan and most of Europe in energy productivity. Worse, we may be missing out on the green gold rush of the century: The market for green energy is set to quadruple in the next eight years, according to the research firm Clean Edge.

Of course, the United States can catch up (and reduce smog, carbon dioxide emissions and geopolitical hassles while we’re at it), but we’ll need to start treating green energy as a source of jobs, cash and national influence. That means supporting it like a real energy industry — with a vigorous mix of diplomacy, laws and incentives — and dispelling some key myths.

1. “Green energy” is better at sponging up subsidies than creating jobs.

Not so, though Washington certainly now views environmentally responsible energy production as yet another way to pump subsidies to constituencies as diverse as corn farmers and Prius owners. That cavalier attitude is costing us a shot at future markets, which may mean the next generation of U.S. jobs.

Lisa Margonelli, a fellow at the New America Foundation, is the author of “Oil on the Brain: Petroleum’s Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank.”
(3 February 2008)
Also at Common Dreams.

Bush Budget Guts Proven Energy Savers, Gives More Handouts to Coal, Oil and Nukes

Press release, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
he Bush administration’s just-released $3.1-trillion budget flies in the face of common sense in solving America’s energy crisis, according to energy and policy experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The same pen that slashed investments in energy efficiency and renewables by 28 percent ups the giveaways to outdated dirty energy like nuclear power, conventional coal, and oil.

Symbolic of the abandonment of energy efficiency is the zeroing-out of the budget of the Weatherization Assistance Program, which the Department of Energy itself calls “this country’s longest running, and perhaps most successful energy efficiency program.” In FY06, DOE weatherized 97,000 homes. Last year, only 55,000 homes. Now it will go to zero.
(4 February 2008)

Wind farms need techs to keep running

David Twiddy, Associated Press
… Critics of wind power have called the mammoth turbines eyesores and environmentalists have fought against them, warning the giant rotors could pose a hazard to migratory birds and other wildlife.

But wind power officials see a much larger obstacle coming in the form of its own work force, a highly specialized group of technicians that combine working knowledge of mechanics, hydraulics, computers and meteorology with the willingness to climb 200 feet in the air in all kinds of weather.

That work force isn’t keeping up with the future demand, partly because the industry is so new that the oldest independent training programs are less than five years old.
(4 February 2008)